State Health Officer

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September is Childhood Cancer Awarenss Month

During September, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, I encourage the public to be aware of this condition that so deeply affects families across our state and nation. Cancer remains the leading cause of death from disease among children past infancy. According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 10,270 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed among children from birth to 14 years, and about 1,190 children are expected to die from the disease in the United States in 2017.

According to the American Childhood Cancer Association, approximately 40,000 children are on active cancer treatment at any given time, and the average age of diagnosis is 6 years old, compared to 66 years for adults' cancer diagnoses. Cancer in children can be difficult to recognize because early symptoms are often like those caused by much more common illnesses or injuries. Children frequently become sick or have bumps or bruises that can mask the early signs of cancer.

Parents should have their child examined by a doctor if he or she has unusual signs or symptoms that do not go away, such as the following:

  • Unusual lump or swelling
  • Unexplained paleness and loss of energy
  • Bruising easily
  • Ongoing pain in one area of the body
  • Limping
  • Unexplained fever or illness
  • Frequent headaches—often with vomiting
  • Sudden eye or vision changes
  • Sudden unexplained weight loss

While most of these symptoms are far more likely to have causes other than cancer, such as an injury or an infection, parents should contact their doctor at once so that a diagnosis can be made and their child can be treated if needed. Thanks to advances, there are hundreds of thousands of childhood cancer survivors.

The Alabama Department of Public Health is a member of the Alabama Comprehensive Cancer Control Coalition. Its vision, mission, special programs, and information about joining the coalition are described on this website at www.alabamapublichealth.gov/cancercontrol. If you are interested in reducing the impact and burden of cancer on Alabama, please consider joining. 

Scott Harris, M.D.
Acting State Health Officer

(September 2017)

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Page last updated: August 31, 2017