Leukemia is one of the most deadly cancers that affect children. Also known as cancer of the blood, it accounts for 40% of the cases of cancer reported among children at Mulago Hospital.
As I enter the children’s ward for cancer, my attention is first drawn to a 14 year old boy. Badru Were looks much younger than his age, a condition blamed on his disease.
Am later told he is battling Leukemia. His mother Monica Kaija says he has been battling the disease since he was 8 years old and slowly, they have lost hope of his recovery.
Monica says that aside from the pain her son has endured, raising the money from his treatment is also very difficult. She says leukemia is one of the most expensive cancers to treat and that it has drained much of her finances. Badru’s case was not detected early.
According to his mother, they treated fever for a very long time and went to different hospitals, before the disease was diagnosed. Monica says her son was first put on palliative care and the cancer was discovered in its advanced stages.
The acting principle nursing officer at the Uganda cancer institute, Allen Namala says Lukemia is a cancer that cannot be easily recognized.
Namala says many parents even spend a lot of money on traditional healers and report to the hospital when it is too late to save the children’s lives.
According to the doctors, the symptoms of leukemia in its advanced stages include high fever, bone pain, uncontrolled bleeding, swelling of the abdomen and weight loss among others.
Namala notes that treating Lukemia is quite expensive since just one component of the drug combination costs about 1.5 million shillings. Research conducted over the years points to certain risk factors that increase the chance of one getting the disease.
These include exposure to high levels of radiation, family history of leukemia or other blood disorders, smoking, genetic disorders such as the Down syndrome and excessive exposure to herbicides, among others.
Doctors encourage parents to take their children for health checkups every 6months to enable early detection and treatment of any disease.
Namara explains that Lukemia can be cured once detected early and urges parents to seek proper medical care whenever children fall sick. Though you may not be able to avoid cancer totally, doctors encourage a few practices that can help you live a healthier life.
These include regular exercise, avoiding smoking and second hand smoke, eating a balanced diet and careful note of abrupt changes in health, such as sudden weight loss of gain.
The doctors also encourage seeking advice for any change in health noted, to enable early diagnosis and possible cure.