Facts & Myths about Childhood Cancer

Cancer occurs when body cells grow in an abnormal and uncontrolled manner, disrupting normal bodily functions. These cells often travel to other parts of the body, growing and replacing normal tissues.

Myth: Cancer is contagious and can spread like flu
Fact: Cancer is not contagious and cannot spread from one child to another. However, children on cancer treatment are discouraged from going to crowded places as their immunity is low and are vulnerable to infections. They sometimes wear face masks to avoid being infected by other viruses.
Myth: Childhood cancers are inherited
Fact: There is no known cause for most childhood cancers. Since the triggers of most childhood cancers are unknown, preventive measures are limited. Thus far, studies suggest that there is nothing a child or parent had done to induce cancer, and therefore should avoid doing in order to prevent childhood cancer.
Myth: Childhood cancer = death sentence
Fact: Most childhood cancers are curable. For example, in Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia - a common form of Leukaemia in Singapore - 90% of the children will be cured with chemotherapy alone. A successful cure depends on receiving the current-day standard therapy, a positive attitude, and determination to overcome cancer.
Myth: Children with cancer lose all reasons for living
Fact: Children with cancer can lead a normal childhood. Many children return to normal school life after treatment. In other cases, the children and their families adapt and modify their lifestyle to achieve normalcy. This becomes much easier with care, understanding and support from family, teachers, friends and the community.
Myth: All tumours are cancerous
Fact: Not all tumours are cancerous.

Sometimes cancer cells can also grow quickly to form a lump called a tumour. A tumour can invade and destroy the normal cells, causing damage to the body’s healthy tissues.

Tumours are either benign or malignant. Malignant tumours are cancerous cells that invade and spread to other parts of the body. In contrast, benign tumours invade tissues surrounding it but generally do not spread. Unfortunately, the fast growing tissues of children allow cancers to grow more rapidly. Children are also more susceptible to certain cancers like leukaemia, brain tumours and lymphoma. Currently, the causes of most childhood cancers remain largely unknown.