diagnosing childhood cancer

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month: The Difficulties Of Diagnosis

The UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people and their families, Clic Sargent has recently published the results of a poll which assessed the thoughts and opinions of childhood cancer patients’ parents and carers. The poll revealed that 6 in 10 felt their GP had inadequate knowledge of child cancer symptoms. Additionally, one third said they experienced a delayed diagnosis and just under half said they had to see their GP a minimum of three times before a diagnosis was made.


“Today 10 children and young people found out they have cancer”

Clic Sargent


Why Is Childhood Cancer Difficult to Diagnose?

Childhood cancer remains rare and GP’s are only ever likely to see a small number of cases throughout their careers. The symptoms of childhood cancer can mirror other more minor illnesses, which is why the possibility of either a misdiagnosis or having to attend several GP appointments before a diagnosis is made is often quite high.

There is also some disparity in the way cancer is diagnosed within A&E departments. Fast moving cancers like leukaemias, which also happen to be the most common of childhood cancers, are much more likely to get picked up in A&E as a child’s health can deteriorate very quickly. Slower developing cancers are much harder to detect and can often be mistaken for something else, which could in part explain why just over half of children aged 14 and under receive a diagnosis in A&E compared to 23% of over 25s.


Is Anything Being Done To Make Diagnosis Easier?

In a bid to alleviate this problem, Clic Sargant has launched a Better Care For Young Cancer Patients Campaign. Part of the campaign has focussed upon attaining GPs own personal views on why diagnosing childhood cancer is so difficult and what they think can be done to improve the situation.

The data collected showed that 32% of GPs said they felt there is not enough awareness surrounding childhood cancer symptoms. 46% said that not enough training on spotting childhood cancer symptoms was available and 57% said that discussions with medical experts, including paediatricians would help benefit the situation.


Will This Poll Help Bring About Changes?

A large amount of work is being carried out throughout the NHS to prioritise cancer diagnosis and treatment. However, this is work on a much broader scale and doesn’t address the specific issues in the area of childhood cancer diagnosis. More research is required into how the effects of late diagnosis impact the lives of children and young people, but it is hoped the results of Clic Sargent’s poll will move this issue further forward quicker.


September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, which will shortly draw to a close. But in the time that’s left you can still get involved by visiting Clic Sargent’s website and finding out more about the great work they do in supporting children and families living with childhood cancer. We would urge you to learn more about its signs and symptoms, including the different types and how they differ to other cancers. You can do this by visiting Children With Cancer UK.