Updated 03 April 2017

Hundreds of children diagnosed with cancer in SA each year

If, however, these cancers are detected early, the children's chances of survival are as high as 77%.


Cancer can be a devastating diagnosis and can have a huge effect not only on the child but on the entire family.

Although cancer in children and teenagers is rare, between 800 and 1 000 children under the age of 15 in South Africa are diagnosed with cancer each year. 

Most childhood cancers can be treated successfully if they are detected early and the chances of survival are as high as 77%. 

The types of cancers teens get have one thing in common: cells, which are the building block of the body, grow in an uncontrolled way.

Types of cancer in children and teenagers

Childhood cancers are caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors. Leukaemia is the most prevalent kind of cancer among all South African children. Bone cancer, or osteosarcoma can occur in teenagers during a growth spurt. Testicular cancer is also found in teenage boys.

The warning signs of cancer in children (which can also be symptoms of many other conditions or diseases) can include unexplained weight loss, headaches and vomiting, swelling and pain in the bones and joints, a lump, development of excessive bruising, bleeding, or a rash, constant infections, constant tiredness, vision changes and recurrent fevers. 

It is recommended that children be treated at paediatric oncology clinics wherever possible. Treatment can include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy. 

CANSA care homes can provide home-from home accommodation to patients undergoing cancer treatment at oncology clinics far from their homes. There are also facilities in Pretoria and Polokwane for parents of children being treated for cancer. 

It is recommended that families in this situation contact a CANSA Care Centre and Care Clinic by dialling 0800 226622 to get information about services in your area.

Read more:

Childhood cancer: Know the facts

Childhood cancer survivors at increased heart risk

Breast-feeding counters effects of childhood cancer


Ask the Expert

Cancer expert

CANSA’s purpose is to lead the fight against cancer in South Africa. Its mission is to be the preferred non-profit organisation that enables research, educates the public and provides support to all people affected by cancer. Questions are answered by CANSA’s Head of Health Professor Michael Herbst. For more information, visit

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