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South Africa's Child Cancer Crisis: 1,000 Children Diagnosed Annually

Published September 24, 2023
9 months ago

Every year in South Africa, about 800 to 1,000 children get a dreaded diagnosis: cancer. This chilling statistic is from the paediatric oncology unit at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town, where cancer is now the leading cause of death by disease among children under 14 years.



When 3-year-old Molemo was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2021, her mother, Kele Modibogo, felt the immense weight of not knowing about the deadly disease. Molemo, however, overcame the odds to beat leukaemia at five, post-treatment at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital's Paediatric Haematology and Oncology Clinic.


Meanwhile, another victory story unravels in Cape Town. Razia Wilson, of Valhalla Park, at age 10, was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma, an aggressive childhood cancer. Currently, five years down the line, Razia is thriving and excelling in school.



Despite these success stories, Tygerberg Hospital points out that many children with cancer are never diagnosed, making it a significant global health issue. The urgency for early diagnosis and treatment is extreme, particularly for conditions like neuroblastoma, which is prevalent among children under three and often spreads widely before diagnosis.


Modibogo's story underlines the need for better awareness and more responsive healthcare. Noticing her daughter's continuous coughing and sleeping, her initial worry was dismissed with a mere cough mixture prescription at their local clinic. A subsequent visit resulted in a suspicion of pneumonia and finally, a visit to a different clinic revealed water in Molemo's lungs.


Only when Molemo was transferred to Bara Hospital did the devastating diagnosis of leukaemia arrive. Cyclical through the state of shock and self-blame, Modibogo became a resolute caregiver while Molemo fought against and conquered leukaemia.


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