Moms, 16 early signs of childhood cancer to look out for from a paediatric oncologist

“At least 1 in 600 children get cancer in South Africa and only about a third reach the right place for medical attention, like an oncology unit,” says Prof Jennifer Geel, a paediatric oncologist at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital and Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre.

Prof Geel says these numbers are concerning and the only way to help improve these figures is to raise awareness about the early warning signs of childhood cancer so parents or guardians – who are generally the first people to pick up these worrying signs in children, know what to look for and know how to react.

ALSO SEE: 4 steps to childhood leukaemia prevention

Prof Geel together with Cupcakes of Hope have put together these early warning signs of childhood cancer for parents to be aware of:

  • Does your child have unexplained, recurring fevers?
  • Has your child’s vision changed suddenly? (Blindness, a bulging eyeball, a new squint or a spot in the eye?
  • Is your child constantly tired and noticeably pale?
  • Is your child losing weight or do they suddenly have a loss of appetite?
  • Does your child have excessive bruises, bleeding or rashes?
  • Does your child have persistent infections?
  • Have you noticed a lump on your child’s head, neck, chest, tummy, groin, limbs, glands or armpits?
  • Are your child’s bones, joints, back or legs swollen and painful?
  • Does your child frequently have headaches and early morning vomiting?
  • Is your child’s head abnormally large?
  • Does your child feel nauseated or vomit without nausea?
  • Is your child missing their milestones, or have they regressed?
  • Has your child’s behaviour changed?
  • Has your child’s balance or way of walking changed?
  • Does your child walk awkwardly or stumble often?
  • Has your child sustained a fractured bone with very little force or trauma?

“Cupcakes of Hope has been incredible at helping raise awareness of childhood cancer and do a phenomenal job at supporting the parents and families of these children which gives them a much better chance to fight and beat this disease,” says Prof Geel.

How you can help

Cupcakes of Hope is a non-profit and Public Benefit Organisation, dedicated to raising funds to assist not only the financial and emotional needs of the warriors and their families fighting childhood cancer, but also to help drive awareness about early cancer detection in children, through the love of baking – one cupcake at a time.

Unfortunately, due COVID-19, Cupcakes of Hope will not be hosting National Cupcake Day at malls this year. Instead, anyone who loves baking can support the cause and can #bakeadifference. Any cupcake recipe can be followed as long as you remember to add the secret ingredient; it has to be baked with LOVE. It’s super easy to join the #bakeadifference initiative:

  • Register a fundraiser on the website
  • Bake 24 Cupcakes or Cookies
  • Get your friends, family or work colleagues to make a R15 donation per Cupcake
  • Challenge your friends to do the same

For more information on how to host your own fundraiser contact or visit their website or find them on Facebook  or Instagram.  

More about the expert:

Dr Jennifer Geel is passionate about improving the survival and quality of life of children with cancer. She trained at UCT Medical School, did internship at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, community service at Umtata General Hospital in the late nineties. She then spent two years in clinical research settings in Cape Town and London before specialising in paediatrics. She subsequently subspecialised in paediatric oncology and has a strong interest in stem cell transplantation. Learn more about Dr Jennifer Geel here.

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