To commemorate September as the National Children Cancer Awareness Month in the United States, this edition’s article will focus on the issue of cancer in children and how it affects our lives as humans.


As one of the deadliest diseases in the world, cancer has so far been a “final verdict” for those unfortunately living with it. According to the data released by World Health Organization (WHO), in 2012, there were 14 million new cases of cancer around the globe and 8.2 million lost their fights against it. Indonesia Health Ministry has predicted that the number will grow into 22 million in two decades.

Regardless of the age, anyone can have cancer, young and old. In Indonesia alone, tens of thousands of children have been diagnosed with cancer and by July 2016, approximately 650 of them living under the poverty line in Jakarta. According to current research by Dharmais Hospital, roughly 70 percent of Indonesian kids are suffering from leukemia.

As early symptoms, a leukemia sufferer first develop fever followed by bleeding of the gums or red spots visible on the skin—ironically the parents often mistake it for a bloody fever as it is a common illness given the country’s tropical climate. Therefore, the kids fail to get proper medical treatment and by the time they find out it is cancer, it is already too late.

The lymph glands in the neck or liver will also get swollen, leading to the growing of one or more lumps on the body. Kids with leukemia tend to have big stomach too, and, if the bleeding and the lumps persist for a month or more, the parents should be cautious.

Meanwhile, the symptoms of cancer generally include unreasonable body weight loss, the change of skin color, lumps suddenly showing up on certain parts of body, hardly stop bleeding when wounded.

Cancer, in general, is a multifactorial ailment, meaning there are various factors contributing to it.

  • Genetic factor
    Cancer is hereditary — one could become cancerous if a relative previously had it.
  • Carcinogen factor
    Chemical substances, radiation, virus, hormone, and chronic-irritation that could potentially lead to cancer.
  • Behavioural or lifestyle factor
    Smoking habit, unhealthy diet, alcohol consumption, high body mass index, and lack of physical activities or exercises.

Smiling doctor examining his little patient

There are five methods to cure cancer: surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and biological therapy.

  • Surgery
    The cancer is removed from the patient’s body through a string of surgeries. Only possible for cancer which has not spread to other parts of the body and often accompanied with other therapies as well.
  • Radiotherapy
    Radiotherapy is a popular treatment to kill the cancer cells or stop them from spreading further. The beams — X-rays, gamma rays, and charged particles — are focused on a certain part of the body. Even though it is pretty effective to destroy the malignant cancer cells, it however can also damage the healthy cells that may affect the patients’ bodily functions.
  • Chemotherapy
    Shortened as chemo, it involves to use of drugs to combat cancers and the therapy is divided into two sessions: neoadjuvant chemo in which the patients consumes drugs to shrink the cancer size prior to the surgery, and adjuvant chemo in which the drugs are given after the surgery in order to eliminate the rest of the cancer cells left. And even if the chemo does not successfully heal the cancer, it can minimize the patients’ pain and reduce the size of the cancer itself.
  • Hormone therapy
    Since some types of cancer depend on particular hormones to grow and develop in the body—such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, womb cancer and kidney cancer—this therapy uses drugs to interfere with the hormones in a hope that the drugs will stop the hormones from producing and prevent the hormones from continuously creating cancer cells.
  • Biological therapy
    A form of therapy that uses living organisms or substances from living organisms, or even artificial subtances created in the laboratory, to fight against cancer. It also sometimes introduces the use of vaccines or bacteria to improve the patients’ immune against the illness.

You can follow these easy steps to keep your children healthy and cancer-free:

  • Apply healthy lifestyle and balanced diet at home. Teach your kids to enjoy eating fruits and vegetables—make sure they are not exposed to pesticides—in their every meal.
  • Don’t smoke. Or, if you have a hard time quitting, do not smoke around your kids as it turns them into passive smokers, in addition to giving them a bad example of being a smoker as well.
  • Breastfeed. Do it for the first six to nine months as it boosts up the kids’ immune. Breastfeeding your baby also makes you less likely to have breast cancer in the future.
  • Consume less sugar and salt. Too much salt is bad for your healthy cells while sugar is the thing that keeps the cancer cell alive.
  • Cut down milk consumption. Some researches have revealed that cow milk and other dairy products such as cheese and butter can increase one’s chance of having cancer.
  • Live away from the main roads or gas stations. Kids settling near these two places are at bigger risk of suffering from leukemia as they grow up.