What is called childhood cancer? How many types of Leukemia cancer in children? And what is the reaction to cancer diagnosis at the school stage?

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Cancer is a set of diseases with a very low incidence in children. Pediatric cancer is curable, with high overall survival rates.

Diagnosis, proper treatment and comprehensive care of the patient mean that the chance of survival can reach more than 80 per cent.

CHILDHOOD CANCER

Every year around 1,400 new cases of children with cancer are diagnosed in Spain between the ages of 0 and 18. Despite being a rare disease, childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by disease up to 14 years of age. Still, it is the second leading cause of global extinction, surpassed only by accidents and intoxications and behind infectious diseases.

Childhood cancer has distinct characteristics, each with a specific name, treatment, and prognosis. Embryonal tumours such as retinoblastoma, nephroblastoma, neuroblastoma, and hepatoblastoma are forms of cancer-specific to children, while most adult cancers do not exist in paediatrics.

The most common type of cancer in children is leukaemia (30%), followed by tumours of the Central Nervous System (22%) and lymphomas (13%), bone (5.5%), liver (1.4%), kidney (4.9%), germ cells (3.5%), melanomas and epithelial (2.1%) and others (13%), according to the National Registry of Childhood Tumors. The RNTI contributes to the fight against childhood cancer by studying the survival of children with cancer in Spain and its international comparison; the incidence and its tendencies; and collaborating in the study of causal risk factors.

  • LEUKEMIA: cancer of the cells that make up the blood.
  • o acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is a biological disorder that affects at any point in the differentiation of lymphocytes (white blood cells).
  • o Acute myeloblastic leukaemia: Heterogeneous group of haematological diseases that originate in the precursors of the bone marrow, which would give rise to myelocytes, monocytes, erythrocytes and megakaryocytes.
  • – Tumors of the Central Nervous System (MEDULLOBLASTOMA, EPENDYNOMA, ASTROCITOMA, AND GLIOMA are among the most frequent).
  •  LYMPHOMAS: tumours that consist of malignant cells that are part of the lymph nodes.
  • NEUROBLASTOMA: tumour with the highest incidence in children under five. It can be located in the abdomen, chest or pelvis since it originates in the sympathetic nervous system, which extends throughout the body, forming ganglia.
  •  RABDOMYOSARCOMA: a malignant tumor that originates in the muscle.
  •  WILMS tumour or NEPHROBLASTOMA: renal tumour.
  •  OSTEOSARCOMA: long bone tumour
  •  EWING’S SARCOMA: a bone tumor that can also affect small bones.

HOSPITALISATION

Hospital stays are minimal, so hospitalisation periods are not as long as before. It is tried that he does not leave his environment during the disease process. Thus it is tested that he loses as little as possible what constitutes the basic parameters of his habitual life (his house, family, school, friends…).

DIAGNOSIS OF CANCER AT THE SCHOOL STAGE

The reactions of the boy or girls to cancer diagnosis are very diverse, depending on their characteristics and those of their families.

They feel powerless in the face of the situation. The work of the teaching staff, together with that of the health and care staff, will help them regain control and solidity in an otherwise unpredictable situation. Your reaction to the diagnosis will be determined mainly by your emotional and intellectual development level. Hence, there are different reactions according to age.

Infantile stage: 0-6 years

They are unable to grasp the meaning of their diagnosis or the reasons why they must endure medical treatments, which are so extensive and often aggressive.

For their peace of mind, they will need to be confirmed that they are not the cause of their illness and that it is not contagious and does not mean any punishment. Hair loss, however, will concern adults more than the child at that time.

Primary: 7-12 years

They will gradually begin to realise the social implications of their disease. This will mean greater awareness of hair loss, illness and death, and possible changes in their social environment.

The pathological reactions typical of this stage are: a significant decline in academic performance not due to school absenteeism, aggressive or withdrawn behaviour, increased anxiety, social isolation and concern about death.

Secondary 12-16 years

As they become young, their reactions and concerns will increasingly focus on relationships and worries with their friends and the long-term consequences of their illness.

Young people and adolescents are very aware of their physical appearance and, at the same time, very susceptible to social rejection. They are raised whether or not to let others participate in their illness due to the conscious stigma of finding them “different”.

Many students will suffer in this stage of great anxiety when considering returning to school. They worry that they will not be able to do their homework and are sad that they will not be able to participate in school sports activities. They will also find the idea of ​​facing their possible death more painful and feel uneasy about the uncertainty of their future.

The pathological reactions typical of this stage are marked decline in academic performance, frequent thoughts of death and suicide, extreme social isolation, abuse of harmful substances, and school failure.

THE SCHOOL

In the beginning, the school was considered a secondary issue compared to the central one: medical treatment. Later, importance is given to it because falling behind in school can have a negative influence on their state of mind, increasing their fear, their anxiety and, consequently, their chances of survival, for two reasons:

– School continuity conveys a message of perspective on the future.

– Educational care, as part of medical treatment, allows them to develop social and cognitive skills.

Hospital classrooms play an essential role in their evolutionary process because thanks to play and communication with other boys and girls, in addition to providing educational follow-up, they constitute a place of escape and elimination of tensions.

Pilot studies developed about the school integration of children with cancer show that those who stay in contact with school throughout the treatment are the ones who better integrate later when they return.

BACK TO SCHOOL

The end of treatment gives rise to a new period within the process. It is the beginning of a stage and supposes the readaptation to another new and different daily life, in which it is not yet known if it belongs to the world of “normality” or to that of “disease”.

Distressing experiences arise caused by the memory of the disease and the fear of a possible relapse. In addition, the perception of medical support decreases and this can cause feelings of loneliness and helplessness in the face of “what is going to happen from now on”.

There is also a concern about the consequences of the treatment. Sometimes there are physical, emotional, social or cognitive sequels that are more or less visible and interrelated, which suppose a feeling of loss and require a period of adaptation by everyone.

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