The thought that your child may one day be diagnosed with a life-threatening illness is terrifying; but when it comes to cancer it’s important to know the facts.
Rates of childhood cancer in Australia are, thankfully, very low. While the gut-wrenching stories we read online may make it feel like cancer is everywhere, according to Professor Jon Emery, the Medical Advisor for Cancer Council Australia, “there are only 500 children under 10 diagnosed with cancer every year” in our country. Given 130,470 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in Australia this year, the rate of childhood cancers is comparably very slim.
The other comforting news is that thanks to improvements in treatment, of the children who are diagnosed every year, 85 per cent have an outlook of long-term survival.
If you’re a worried parent, know that the symptoms Professor Emery lists below are not uncommon; and often have a far less serious explanation than cancer. With this in mind, parents should be looking for the duration and severity of their child’s symptoms – if they creep up slowly and are persistent for longer than a week or two, Professor Emery advises you take your child to a GP.
These are the red flags to look out for. If your child experiences these for a prolonged period, please consult a healthcare professional.
Bruising and bleeding
This could include your child bruising easier than normal; while all children will sport an unexplained bruise from time to time, it's important to keep an eye on if you notice a change.
"They're called petechiae bruises," Professor Emery tells Mamamia. "They look speckled, like pinpoint bruises and can be a symptom of blood clotting not working so well, and can be an important thing to look out for in case of leukemia."
If your child has been "really off colour for a couple of weeks", Professor Emery says you should consult a physician. Signs of anaemia - where a child may be pale, feeling fatigued and out of breath - can be a red flag for something more serious.
Persistent and unexplained pain in one limb is something parents should look out for in case of bone cancer, Professor Emery says.