'Early diagnosis key to cancer cure'

PARENTS are encouraged to be conscious of early symptoms of cancer, including fever that refuses to go away.

Doctor Mae Dolendo, lead pediatric oncologist at Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC), told reporters on Monday that leukemia or cancer of the blood is still the most common cancer for children.

She added that usually the cancer cases in children are not the same with adults.

"Usually deep-seated, cancer sa blood, cancer sa mata or retinoblastoma, kasi ang causes are multi-factorial may genetic predisposition, environment, and viruses so hindi siya kagaya ng adults," Dolendo said.

She said that parents should consult with a doctor in case their children will have fever for more than two weeks and will exhibit paleness, pains, and bleeding for leukemia.

Children below three years old show retino-blastoma symptom through white spots in the retina.

She said this should be regarded as an abnormality and must referred to a physician because the development of cataract comes with old age.

Dolendo added that currently they cater 60-70 of leukemia patients yearly coming from all parts of Mindanao, as SPMC is the end-referral center.

SPMC also provides psychosocial support because treatment for cancer takes time.

"The whole beauty of it is that you give children the best chances to survive, natatapos din ang treatment sa bata na may cancer we have survivors na more than three years na sila tapos and they are doing very well," Dolendo added.

She said that the Children's Cancer Institute at SPMC has also been very helpful especially to indigent patients.

"Na e-empower sila na nakikita nila na inaalagaan sila ng maayos even though kapos sila sa buhay, the government takes good care of them," she said.

She added that Philheath now offers Z-Package to children with Leukemia, primarily those who have standard risk acute lymphoglastic leukemia.

Dolendo said that with this package the government will pay three years of the child's treatment.

Dolendo also said that the pediatric unit of the SPMC Cancer Institute can cater to 50 children.

"The kind of cancer that we see sa mga bata, mas aggressive siya, pero mas highly curable siya, pero dahil matagal gamutin yun ang difficulty doon," she said, thus early detection and diagnosis is very important.

Dolendo said that in Davao City, February 15 is declared as the International Childhood Cancer Day in Davao City.

A giant gold ribbon was unveiled on Monday in front of Davao City hall for the celebration.