It’s a new year and a new decade and part of our focus for 2020 is on educating the younger generation about childhood cancer and cancer in general. Gone are the days when cancer is considered taboo. It’s way too prevalent to be hidden, and with our children having easy access to a wealth of information on the Internet, we need to explain first-hand to ensure the right information is disseminated in the right way, age appropriately!
As we observe World Cancer Day 2020, here is a child-friendly explanation of what cancer is so that you can have a conversation with your child in the event that someone in the family, a friend or classmate may be diagnosed with cancer.
Our bodies are made up of millions and millions of tiny cells. They all have different jobs to do and they are busy dividing (splitting into two), making more new cells to do their job, e.g. new skin cells take the place of old skin cells, which are rubbed off the skin’s surface. New cells are made as they are needed in each part of the body. Inside each cell are chemicals that give the signals for making new cells or to stop making new cells.
Cancer forms when
The cells get their messages mixed and some cells are made which are not normal cells, or the cells don’t get a message to stop making new cells,so too many cells are made. That is when a tumour (growth/swelling) forms.
Some tumours are benign (not harmful). Too many new cells are made but they don’t spread anywhere else. The other kind of tumour is malignant (harmful/cancerous). It grows too much in one area and can spread to other areas of the body.
What causes cancer
Anyone can get cancer, but some things such as smoking may make it more likely to happen (called risk factors).
Carcinogens: chemicals in the environment or in food or products we use can lead to cancer.
A history of cancer in the family can mean that others are at higher risk (they are more likely to get cancer).
People whose bodies do not have a strong immune system (the
parts of the body that get rid of germs and body cells that are not normal), are more at risk of getting cancer.
Cancers can be treated and it’s possible that the person can get completely better, but sometimes treatment can make someone better for only a short time. Some treatments make people feel very sick for a while. What treatment is used depends on the type of cancer and where it is.
Surgery - an operation to take out the tumour, can be used for some cancers.
Radiotherapy - high energy x-rays are aimed at the tumour
to kill the cancer cells.
Chemotherapy - when drugs are used to destroy the cancer cells. These drugs may also attack other healthy cells like the ones that make hair, and this is why some people on this treatment lose their hair - but it grows back after the treatment stops.
Other ways of treating cancer
There are other things which might help someone who has cancer to feel better. Many of them are about helping their minds feel peaceful and happier so that the body may be able to heal itself.
Meditation: where people learn to relax and think positive thoughts.
Diets: someone who is an expert in what foods are best for us to eat, will help the person to find foods which are healthy for them and to cut out foods which could make them feel ill, particularly if they are having treatment.
Counselling: where the person who is sick can talk through problems and ask questions. The person’s family might find this helpful too.
Exercise: a good way of helping someone feel better and is good for the body.
If someone you know has cancer then you can be helpful by understanding that he or she is still the same person. Take time to be with that person and understand that he or she will not want to talk about cancer all the time.
Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding - Proverbs 4:7 King James Version (KJV)