Rwandan children as well as parents have been urged to take preventive measures against childhood cancer.
This was said, yesterday, as Rwanda marked Childhood Cancers Day with a special emphasis on raising awareness about the disease.
September being a childhood cancer awareness month, Rwanda Biomedical Centre’s Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in collaboration with Rwanda Children Cancer Relief, organised a childhood cancer walk as well as other activities that aimed at raising awareness of the general population on childhood cancers.
The walk started at the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda and ended at the car free zone in downtown Kigali.
It was attended by students from various secondary schools and universities, officials from Rwanda Biomedical Centre and NGOs, and members of the private sector, among others.
It aimed at seeking early detection of cancer, giving a chance to the youths to hear testimonies of cancer survivors as well as standing with the children who are still struggling with the condition and their families.
Dr Aimable Kanyamuhanga, a pediatrician oncologist at the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK), said that the event was important to make everyone aware that cancer exists, not only in adults but also in children.
He added that with enough awareness, early diagnosis and treatment of childhood cancers is made possible, a cornerstone in the reduction of pediatric cancers mortality, and improving survival rate of children diagnosed with cancers.
Every year, an estimated 250,000 children worldwide develop cancers. According to the World Health Organisation, 200,000 of them are from middle and low income countries.
The causes of pediatric cancers are still largely unknown, and though new discoveries are resulting in new treatments, this tragic disease continues to scar families and communities in very remarkable ways.
The survival rate of children diagnosed with cancers is appallingly low in the developing world, including Rwanda. Medics say the survival rate for children diagnosed with cancer was, for obvious reasons, lower in the developing world, estimated to be less than 25 per cent versus an 85 per cent survival rate in the developed world.
The low survival rate in Rwanda is especially due to insufficient awareness that lead to late or no consultation of health facilities.
Edmund Kagire, a 32 year old journalist who overcame liver cancer, told the students that when someone is diagnosed with cancer, it is very important to have an optimistic attitude for recovery.
“It is overcome mentally by believing that you will get healed. I was confident that I would get well and it happened,” he said.
Gisele Uwizeyimana, a 16 year old leukemia survivor, in her testimony also agreed to this fact.
“It is important to have hope for recovery,” she said.
Vanessa Izabayo, a 16 year old school girl from Lycee De Kigali, attended the walk. She said she learnt the different signs and symptoms of the different types of cancers. She said she also learnt the importance of medical checkups.
Amieli Nambajimana, a male student from Camp Kigali, said that he learnt the dangers of smoking and alcoholism, thanks to yesterday’s event.
In Rwanda, the most common cancers affecting children are kidney cancer, wilm’s tumor, and leukemia and can all have positive outcomes when diagnosed and treated early.