Early diagnosis is crucial, says CLIC Sargent on International Childhood Cancer Day

CLIC Sargent has called today for more to be done to improve early diagnosis of childhood cancers to prevent treatment being delayed, and children and young people with cancer suffering unnecessary trauma.

The 15 February 2013 is International Childhood Cancer Day and organisations around the world are calling for improvements in early diagnosis of childhood cancer.

CLIC Sargent cited the case of 13 year-old, Libby Heal, from Bridgewater, Somerset, who the charity have supported through treatment. She was taken to the doctor with a distended stomach and diagnosed with constipation, only to find a month later that it was in fact ovarian cancer.

It took many visits to the GP and hospital and eventually admission to accident and emergency, and an emergency operation to find out what was wrong.

Her mother, Jacqui, said: “Despite her deteriorating health the doctors continued to treat Libby for constipation. The hospital staff were fantastic, but it took too long to find out what was actually wrong.”

While recent research has found that 80 per cent of cancer patients in the UK are referred on swiftly, cancer among children and young people is rare and harder for GPs to diagnose because the symptoms are often easily mistaken for other conditions. Also, young people in particular can be reluctant to visit their family doctor.

CLIC Sargent Chief Executive, Lorraine Clifton: “Although many families tell us that children and young people get a diagnosis quickly, we are concerned about those who do not. They can suffer serious effects from cancer which can last a lifetime, or the delay can prove fatal. That’s why it’s so important to increase awareness of symptoms, and provide better support for doctors to diagnose earlier.”

CLIC Sargent is the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people and their families, and provides clinical, practical and emotional support to help them cope with cancer and get the most out of life. The charity is there from diagnosis onwards and aims to help the whole family deal with the impact of cancer and its treatment, life after treatment and, in some cases, bereavement.

The charity is supporting the Early Detection… Making A Difference campaign promoting early diagnosis of cancer, the theme of today’s International Childhood Cancer Day. With prompt and effective treatment, most childhood cancers can be cured and in developed countries like the UK, around 80 per cent of children with cancer survive. But in Third World countries this falls to 20 per cent or even 10 per cent because it is difficult to gain access to information, early diagnosis, care and treatment.

More than 90,000 children worldwide die needlessly from cancer every year, according to the International Society of Paediatric Oncology and the International Confederation of Childhood Cancer Patient Organisations, who run International Childhood Cancer Day.

Some of the symptoms in children and young people that should be investigated for cancers include: a bulging eyeball, lumps in the abdomen and pelvis, unexplained weight loss, easy bruising and bleeding, changes in how a child walks, easy fractures or an enlarging head.