Choc spreads cancer awareness

The Childhood Cancer Foundation and its celebrity ambassadors went to the streets to raise awareness of childhood cancer and other life-threatening blood diseases.

Choc ambassadors Phumeza Mdabe (left) and Jessica Nkosi (centre) with the Choc mascot, Keemo, and a parent at the foundation awareness campaign in Johannesburg in February 2017. (Image supplied)

Thabiso Sekhula

The Childhood Cancer Foundation South Africa (Choc) and its celebrity ambassadors, Phumeza Mdabe and Jessica Nkosi, visited Jabulani Mall in Soweto and Wanderers taxi rank in Johannesburg to build awareness of childhood cancer.

Mdabe, whose three-year-old son went into remission in 2015, said she wished she had known which signs to look out for because they could have caught his cancer early.

“I was shocked when they told me he had cancer, let alone cancer of the eye. I didn’t even know kids could get cancer,” the actress said.

The aim of the awareness campaign – this outreach was held on 15 February 2017 – is to teach people about the signs and symptoms of cancer in children and to provide support to parents and families of children with cancer.

Although cases of childhood cancer are uncommon, the rate has been increasing over the past few years, Choc says. A 2014 American Cancer Society report estimates that one in 408 children in the world will be diagnosed with cancer before they turn 15.

But with early detection and treatment, the survival rate can be as high as 70% to 80%.

“To date, Choc has trained 18,000 people, which has led to a noticeable increase in referrals. Thus we continue to have more awareness drives. We work closely with the Department of Health in training health professionals, homebased care workers and traditional healers in childhood cancer,” said Zelda Jacobs, Choc communications manager.

During the activations, the ambassadors and Choc staff speak to the public about childhood cancer, brief them on where they can get help, and tell them about their support facilities available to families.

There are six stages in the Choc Circle of Care to support children with cancer and their families:

  • Detection – educating health care practitioners, traditional healers and communities to ensure that children with cancer are diagnosed timeously. Choc also works to debunk the myths around cancer.
  • Diagnosis – at the time of diagnosis, the paediatric oncologist will refer the child to Choc for assistance. Where available, Choc social workers help to explain the processes and provide psychosocial support.
  • Hospitalisation – from admission and throughout hospitalisation, Choc provides practical and psychosocial support, which includes care bags upon admission, ward comforts, transport and accommodation, and parent support groups.
  • Support specialist treatment – medical staff and facilities support ranges from funding doctors to attend conferences and data capture for the childhood cancer registry maintained by the South African Children’s Cancer Study Group. Choc also maintains paediatric oncologist units, and provides some equipment and consumables.
  • Out-patient phase – there are 13 Choc houses and lodges, where parents can stay while children are hospitalised and children can stay during the out-patient phase. Transport funds ensure that children return for follow-up treatment and check-ups. Outings and recreational camps are arranged. Bereavement support falls under this phase. Johannesburg has a dedicated bereavement counsellor, while in other divisions bereavement support is provided by social workers and parent support groups.
  • Choc Community – Choc social workers help children in the recovery phase to return to their normal lives and go back to school. Survivors can opt to join Survivors of Life-threatening Diseases (Solid).

“I hope people will listen when we tell them to pay attention to the health of their kids. Don’t dismiss symptoms as a minor thing that will pass. Rather get (them) cleared by a doctor,” Mdabe said.

The aim was to improve the survival rate of childhood cancer in South Africa, which was at 50%, so the children had another chance at life, she said.

Nkosi’s reason for involvement was to make sure the information got to the right people. Because sometimes the important and potentially life-saving information did not reach people in rural areas and townships, she wanted to use her popularity to take the campaign directly to those areas.

“Early detection is key. Even a child of a year old can get cancer. People in rural areas don’t always know that if a child has a spot in their eye it could be cancer, so we are trying to use the little influence we have to drive this message to where it’s needed most.”

Contact CHOC for assistance: Helpline 0800 333 555 and email headoffice@choc.org.za.

For more information on CHOC and its initiatives, visit the foundation’s website.

Source: CHOC

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