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Campaign launched against childhood cancer

Treatment and diagnosis of childhood cancer lags behind in developing countries Keystone

Swiss cancer groups have started a campaign to raise awareness of the disease in children, as part of events to mark World Cancer Day on Saturday.

This content was published on February 4, 2006 - 10:20

This year the focus is on early detection and equal access to treatment for children, as well as celebrating the lives of children living with the disease.

World Cancer Day is overseen by the Geneva-based International Union Against Cancer (UICC).

Ahead of the international day, the Geneva-based World Health Organization launched a global campaign on Friday to avert eight million cancer deaths by 2015.

According to the UICC, cancer is the second-highest cause of death in children between the ages of one and 14. In all, 160,000 children worldwide are newly diagnosed each year.

It says significant advances in diagnosis and therapy means that childhood cancer could in many cases be cured if detected early enough.

But there are discrepancies. At present 60 per cent of children with cancer in developing countries die after diagnosis, compared with 25 per cent in developed countries.

Unnecessary

"Too many children are unnecessarily dying each year, since they are never diagnosed or diagnosed too late," said Isabel Mortara, the UICC's executive director.

"Knowing the common signs and symptoms of childhood cancer is one of the most important steps in fighting this disease and saving thousands of children's lives each year."

The UICC will launch 14 projects in ten low- and middle-income countries, such as Bangladesh, Ukraine and Vietnam, to help children affected by cancer.

It has enlisted, among others, Swiss world skating champion Stéphane Lambiel as one of its special ambassadors.

In Switzerland, where the disease affects 220 children per year, the Swiss Cancer League will mount its own publicity campaign on the issue.

"The Swiss Cancer League is working so that children ill with cancer receive support and that cancer strikes fewer young people," it said in a statement.

Research

One of the League's main activities is to support research on childhood cancer, especially on leukaemia and brain tumours, the two most common types of the disease in children.

It is currently sponsoring several projects, including one on the after effects of childhood cancer and several on the psychosocial side of the disease.

The League also supports programmes in developing counties, among them a children's hospice in Minsk, Belarus, which cares for children affected by cancer following the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986.

The Geneva Cancer League is launching a local information campaign, which includes posting information on buses and interviews and articles in the media.

In a related development, the Swiss Childhood Cancer Registry is to be overhauled to bring it up to international standards.

Bern University, which oversees the databank, said the aim was to facilitate early diagnosis and increase the chances of survival among those affected.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The Geneva-based UICC is an international non-governmental organisation dedicated to the global control of cancer. It has 270 member organisations in 80 countries.

In Switzerland, it has two members: the Swiss Cancer League and the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer research.

Since 2000, February 4 has been designated annual World Cancer Day.

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Key facts

In Switzerland, 220 children develop cancer every year.
Children in the one to four age bracket are most frequently affected.
The most frequent form of the disease among these children is leukaemia.
Between 75 and 99% of children recover – depending on the type of cancer.

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