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For GP's, nurses and health professionals to be trained in childhood cancer

Sophie was unwell in the months leading up to being diagnosed in September 2020, I contacted the GP surgery numerous times and the doctor saw Sophie once in the middle of August. Sophie had some of the red flags of childhood cancer – persistent nausea, persistent stomach pains and unexplained bleeding. She obviously had a 12cm tumour which could be felt when she was diagnosed.

 

I didn’t know the signs and symptoms of childhood cancer and believed it was rare and therefore unlikely to ever happen. I now know that 1 in 320 children will be diagnosed with cancer by the time they are 20. Each childhood cancer is rare (there is over 88 different kinds) but collectively childhood cancer is not rare!

 

Childhood cancer is the NUMBER ONE killer of children under the age of 15 yet shockingly there is no training course for health professionals. There is some given during their training although the message is given that it is unlikely they will come across a case of childhood cancer! The recent statistics show an average GP practice in the UK would expect to see a case of cancer in a child or young person every 1.8 years. So with the message given when they qualify and no training throughout their career it is no wonder that children are diagnosed so late. The majority of children are diagnosed when they are stage 3 or 4. We all know the earlier cancer is detected the better the outcomes are.

 

We would like a national campaign for the public so that parents are aware of the signs and symptoms to look out for. You can find information on the signs and symptoms by looking on this website https://www.cclg.org.uk/spotchildcancer

 

We would also like training given to all health professionals. Parents and health professionals should always consider cancer as a possibility. For health professionals to say that Sophie had her period without seeing her or checking anything else needs to change. My story is not unique, I have heard of so many stories of parents going back and forward to GPs, A and E and each time told their child had other reasons they could be poorly. We have to start changing this especially when 53% of children are diagnosed through A and E (22% of adults are diagnosed through A and E by comparison).

 

My advice to any parent is – you know your child better than anyone – if you think something isn’t right then keep insisting for them to be seen again, for tests etc. Listen to your gut instincts.