While child cancer is rare it has a profound effect on the entire whanau. Around 150 children are diagnosed with cancer each year in New Zealand. So even though that’s not a big percentage of the children it means that cancer is having a huge effect on lots of families at any one time.
Remember cancer is not an infection and cannot be ‘caught’ from another child or adult. Very few types of cancer run in families. This means that if one child has cancer there is not usually any increased chance that other children in your family will have cancer.
There is a huge cost to families to take time off work to be with their child or grandchild throughout that treatment times. Most child cancer treatments in New Zealand are done in Auckland or Christchurch so many families have to travel long distances with their tamaiti and stay away from home for a long time. The treatments can take months and are often more difficult for the parents than the child.
If you know someone who has a child with cancer they could probably do with help like someone to clear their mail or mow their lawns while they are away at the hospital. When they come home for a while between treatments they would probably appreciate a prepared meal being dropped off. Who is looking after the other children? Has the family had to send one parent to the hospital while the other stays home with other children? There will be lots of ways to support people in community who are currently being affected by cancer.
What causes cancer?
The real answer is that no one really knows. There is no evidence that cancer occurs following a knock or injury. A child’s illness is not caused by something done or not done by the child or anyone else.
Cancer is not just one type of disease. It is lots and lots of different diseases. Each one needs different treatments and different potential outcomes. The good news is that more than 80 out of every one hundred children who are treated for cancer in New Zealand will be cured.
The most common types of childhood cancer are:
- leukaemia (cancer of the white blood cells)
- lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system)
- glioma and medulloblastoma (brain tumours)
- neuroblastoma (cancer of the nerve cells)
As part of this month’s Go Gold promotion there has been a new support group set up in New Zealand to support the families of children with neuroblastoma. A family in Wellington have set this up as they found it difficult to find the information they needed when their child was diagnosed. Below is some information about neuroblastoma and a link to the Stuff interview with the mother of a child with neuroblastoma. The group is already offering support and information to families affected by neuroblastoma. They are anticipating becoming a special interest group within the NZ Child Cancer Foundation.
Neuroblastoma is a solid tumour (a lump of abnormal cell growth) that is formed by special nerve cells called neuroblasts. Normally, these cells grown into functioning nerve cells but in neuroblastoma they become cancer cells instead.
Although neuroblastoma sometimes forms before a child is born, it usually isn’t found until later, when the tumour begins to grow and affect the body.
Neuroblastoma NZ Facebook site can be found here
The Stuff interview can be found here.
If someone you love is affected by child cancer click here for links to support and helpful information