A five-month and 22-day-old child was brought in by his parents due to a rapidly growing mass on the right side of his stomach. The child had a history of being on antibiotics before admission. Doctors performed a biopsy and other tests to check for possible causes, confirming a Malignant Rhabdoid Tumour in his abdomen. The parents were informed that chemotherapy was not feasible due to the rarity of the tumour, and the child was transitioned to palliative care. His parents had strong beliefs in traditional medication and felt that it would help him to get treated using it, so they pleaded with surgeons to only remove the tumour and stabilise their child.They were made aware of the risks of this procedure, but the parents committed that they would take responsibility and heal the cancer post the operation. The mother, a traditional healer of cancer and father, a pharmacist believed they were bewitched, and their child’s tumour is a result of witchcraft. 

After his successful tumour removal surgery, it was discovered that the child not only had the tumour but also a severe infection affecting multiple organs, including the brain, liver, kidneys, and heart. His condition deteriorated rapidly with sepsis in the lungs and blood, leading to cardiac arrest. Despite resuscitation efforts, the child’s organs failed to recover fully, and the critical care team conveyed that further interventions were futile.

Sadly, the child passed away in the critical care ward. His family was devasted as he was still young, and they had hopes that their traditional methods would help him recover. The family was offered psychosocial support, and bereavement counselling. The father expressed gratitude for the support provided by CHOC throughout their journey, particularly from the Psychosocial Team. He pledged to stay connected with other families affected by childhood cancer to navigate life after loss, expressing thanks to the entire medical team for their compassionate care and support.

This devastating case underscores the critical importance of recognising the Early Warning Signs of Childhood Cancer. Prompt identification and diagnosis can significantly improve outcomes and potentially save lives. CHOC provides valuable resources and information on recognising these signs, empowering parents, and caregivers to seek timely medical attention for suspicious symptoms.

To learn more about the Childhood Cancer Early Warning Signs and how they can make a difference, visit CHOC’s website: Childhood Cancer Early Warning Signs

Early detection can be the first step towards effective treatment and better outcomes for children and teenagers facing cancer.

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