Early and accurate diagnosis is a primary goal in childhood cancer management. It leads to increased survival, improved prognosis and minimal side effects or late effects of treatment. Sadly, children and adolescents with cancer, especially in low and middle income countries, are often misdiagnosed or diagnosed at advanced stages, because the symptoms are often overlooked or not recognized. Medical staff may not be properly oriented about childhood cancer signs and symptoms. In addition, referral systems for confirmatory diagnosis and treatment may be absent or inadequate . These are the primary reasons for CCI initiatives to raise awareness on early warning signs and symptoms of childhood cancer.
Knowledge and understanding of the issues faced by children/adolescents with cancer, survivors and their families will also lead to more sectors and individuals championing the call to ACT NOW and DO MORE for children/adolescents with cancer, childhood cancer survivors and their families.
CCI initiatives to increase awareness and improve early diagnosis of childhood cancer include the following signature events
- International Childhood Cancer Day (ICCD) on 15th February each year. Launched in 2002, it has now grown into a Global Coalition in 160 countries , to spread the message that childhood cancer is most often curable, if diagnosed early, given prompt treatment and appropriate care.
- International Childhood Cancer Survivor’s Week on 1st or 3rd week June each year . Launched in 2015, it brings into focus the needs and challenges faced by childhood cancer survivors and their families. It provides childhood cancer survivors and their families a platform to share their journeys, inspire and boost the hope of those still struggling with cancer and build a compelling case to do more for childhood cancer survivors. It also gives a face to the stigma, bias and discrimination oftentimes faced by childhood cancer survivors, as they attempt to rebuild their lives and rejoin society.
- Light it up Gold on September each year. Launched in 2015, it builds global awareness of gold as the symbol of childhood cancer and of September as International Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Iconic monuments, buildings, bridges and natural landscapes world-wide were lit up gold. In low-middle income countries with no access to lighting , huge gold ribbons were prominently hung instead. This year, more than 100 sites across the globe went gold.
In addition, CCI member organizations, partners and allies design, develop and use different modalities of information and communication materials (i.e. print, video, digital , web based ) to help break myths and misconceptions about childhood cancer , survivorship as well as to minimize stigma and discrimination. These informational materials are provided to health practitioners, community health volunteers, sectoral groups and the general public as well as made available in health facilities, schools and academic institutions , strategic public facilities (e.g. airports,malls etc.) as well as faith based sites (e.g. churches, mosques, places of worship). Other effective delivery mechanisms are social media platforms, popular TV and radio shows as well as toys.