Parents Urged To Present Childhood Cancers Early

[dropcap]P[/dropcap]ARENTS are presenting their children late for diagnosis of Retinoblastoma (cancer of the eye) and Wilms Tumor (cancer of the kidney) resulting in increased child mortality in the country, medical experts have said.

By Kudakwashe Pembere

These are the leading causes of cancer deaths among children aged three years and below in Zimbabwe.

Retinablastoma is a rare form of cancer that rapidly develops from the immature cells of a retina, the light-detecting tissue of the eye

An ophthalmologist from Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, and a paediatric surgeon form Harare Central Hospital told journalists the delays in transfers for treatment, cultural issues and economic crisis led to late diagnosis with the cancer having advanced making it too late for them to come up with proper interventions.

On survival rates for affected children with both cancer, the doctors said Africa, Zimbabwean children have a chance of surviving five more years of 40 percent on the back of late diagnosis and lack of information of the diseases.

Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals Sekuru Kaguvi Eye Unit Ophthalmologist Dr Pamidzai Madzima said children usually come to the hospital when the eye cancer has developed resulting in them having to remove the eye.

“We have to remove the eye to save the child but some parents too late and plead with us to save the affected eye,” she said.

She also said this is the most common eye cancer among children.

HCH paediatric surgeon Mr Tungamirai Gwatirisa said detection of the wilms tumor can be done by touching the abdomen searching for lumps. He said the other other signs to look out for are urinating blood. He said wilms tumor is the most common cancer among children.

“Most of the times when we are like playing with the child we feel the tumor that’s how we identify it. So once you have felt that mass do not wait. Because that tummy would have been felt a few months back or even a year earlier but people will delay because the child is otherwise normal. But in the meantime, this cancer is advancing. So most of the time when you notice that mass it is maybe at stage one. But then you wait because the mass is not causing any problem. By the time you come to us, the cancer would have probably spread to the chest, to the brain to the spine or to the other kidney. Then there is very little we can offer. So our message is that once you see a child’s abdomen that is distended or is swollen abnormally or when they feel an abdominal mass they should go to the clinic or cascaded to us until we see them and make sure they do not have these childhood cancers,” he said.

At HCH they usually operate about 6 children a month with Parirenyatwa having operated on 20 in 2017.

Most Wilms tumors are unilateral, which means they affect only one kidney. Most often there is only one tumor, but a small number of children with Wilms tumors have more than one tumor in the same kidney. About 5% to 10% of children with Wilms tumors have bilateral disease (tumors in both kidneys).

Wilms tumors often become quite large before they are noticed. The average newly found Wilms tumor is many times larger than the kidney in which it started. Most Wilms tumors are found before they have spread (metastasized) to other organs.

KidzCan executive director Mr Daniel Mckenzie said startung April they will be raising awareness in Harare and Chitungwiza conscientising parents on the importants to present children for early diagnosis of these two cancers. The organisation has to date trained over 400 nurses in the two areas for screeninng and diagnosis of Retinoblastoma and Wilms Tumors.

“Parents can bring their children at the local health facilities including major hospitals in Chitungwiza and Harare for diagnosis as we have equipped nurses with the necessary skills to diagnose these two cancers.  Our goal is to make sure that even if the parents cannot pronounce these conditions, we want to ensure that they know what they are and see to it that their children are treated,” he said.

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