To mark Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, health officials in Qatar are asking parents to observe their children and watch out potential signs and symptoms of the disease.
According to Hamad Medical Corp. (HMC), the most common cancers in children are leukemia, brain and other central nervous system tumors like lymphoma and bone cancer.
In a statement, Dr. Naema Ali Al Mulla, Senior Consultant in Hematology & Oncology at HMC’s Pediatrics Department, highlighted some of the general symptoms of acute leukemia, saying they include:
- Bone and joint pain;
- Weakness (feeling tired with decrease in regular activity);
- Loss of appetite;
- Pale skin;
- Bleeding or bruising;
- Weight loss; and
- Painless lumps in the neck, underarm, or groin.
Al Mulla added that acute leukemias “can grow quickly, so they need to be treated (typically with chemotherapy parallel to supportive measures) as soon as they are found.”
“Leukemia is a cancer that starts in early blood-forming cells (immature blood cells). Most often, leukemia is a cancer of the white blood cells, but some leukemia starts in other blood cell types. In most cases, the leukemia cells spill into the bloodstream fairly quickly and from there it can spread to the rest of the body.”
While the exact cause of most childhood leukemia cases are not known, there are some risk factors, including genetic ones such as having a sibling with leukemia, as well as environmental risk factors and radiation exposure.
Parents in Qatar who observe any cancer-related signs in their children should seek immediate medical advice or obtain a referral to see cancer specialists at Hamad General Hospital’s Pediatrics Department, HMC concluded.
Leading cause of death
Cancer has increasingly become one of the most common causes of death in Qatar, and in 2012 beat out traffic accidents as the number one cause of mortality.
Plans to build a state-of-the-art cancer center in Qatar to provide general education and support for residents with the disease were announced last year.
The building would include an education room for students and the general public; support groups for patients and families of the diagnosed; and a financial help system for Qatari and expat residents who have difficulty paying for life-saving treatments such as chemotherapy.
Its expected completion date remains unknown, though Ashghal did issue a QR8.75 million tender on the complex over the summer.