According to the South African Medical Journal¹ the overall survival rates for childhood cancer in South Africa remain low when compared to international data. Greater awareness of the warning signs of childhood cancer can encourage earlier diagnosis and lead to improved outcomes for all ethnic groups.

Many childhood cancers are treatable with high treatment success rates between 70% and 80% in well-resourced countries, while approximately 80% of children with cancer in Africa die without access to adequate care. Whilst South Africa has an established oncology healthcare service, the infrastructure is overburdened, the cancer awareness in the primary healthcare service is poor, and widespread service delivery challenges exist. A 2014 research paper carried in Stones, David K., et al. entitled “Childhood cancer survival rates in two South African units”, quotes South African overall survival rates at 52.1%. ¹

CANSA’s CEO, Elize Joubert says: “It’s estimated that currently less than half of the children with cancer in South Africa are diagnosed and many of those who are diagnosed are already in the advanced stages of the illness.  Early detection will go a long way in reducing the fatality rate, however this can only be done by creating greater awareness and instilling knowledge in parts of the healthcare system and with the public.”

Cancers in children tend to be different from those found in adults with most of them often occurring in the developing cells such as bone marrow, blood, kidneys and nervous system tissues. According to the recent South African Children’s Cancer Study Group (SACCSG) registry statistics, for 2009 to 2013, the five foremost childhood cancers in South Africa are leukaemia, followed by lymphoma (tumours that begin in the lymph glands), then brain tumours, nephroblastomas, or Wilms tumours – cancer of the kidneys – and then soft tissue sarcomas, which are tumours that begin in the connective tissue. Read more about the types of childhood cancers…

Early Detection is Key

Part of CANSA’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Programme is aimed at educating the public on the early warning signs and in South Africa, the Saint Siluan Warning Signs list is used as per below…

St Siluan Warning Signs Childhood Cancer:

  • S – Seek medical help early for persistent symptoms
  • I – White spot in the eye, new squint, sudden blindness or bulging eyeball
  • L Lump on the stomach, pelvis, head, arms, legs, testicle or glands
  • UUnexplained fever present for over two weeks, weight loss, fatigue, pale appearance, easy bruising & bleeding
  • A – Aching bones, joints, back and easy fractures
  • N Neurological signs, a change in walk, balance or speech, regression, contiguous headaches with/without vomiting & enlarged head

PDF: Childhood Cancer Red Flags Bookmark

The advice given to parents by CANSA should they have any concerns about their child showing symptoms, they need to seek medical help immediately. Children with cancer need to receive the right treatment, preferably in a paediatric oncology unit.

A young cancer Survivor, Thandi* and her mom Jessica*, were being rejected by their community.  Jessica says: “The lack of knowledge and understanding in our village is extreme. The majority still believe that my child is contagious and can harm them.”  CANSA’s TLC Staff in Kimberley stepped in to offer support and information to their community.  (*Names changed to protect privacy)

PPT: Childhood Cancer Awareness | Symptoms | Myths | CANSA TLC Support

PPT: How to Support Your Friend who has Cancer

Support by CANSA TLC

CANSA offers a programme called CANSA Tough Living with Cancer (TLC) that supports not only the diagnosed child or teen, but also the family and loved ones affected by cancer, as well as children who have a parent with cancer.  #CANSAtlc

CANSA embraces a holistic approach to include all aspects of physical, spiritual, psychological and social well-being.


  • support groups
  • prosthetic assistance
  • skills development
  • educational school programmes
  • volunteer training

CANSA TLC Facilities:

Currently, five CANSA TLC facilities for children/teens and parents and families affected by cancer, are available:

Watch video of when CANSA TLC Nicus Lodge was visited by SABC Real Talk with Anele on #MandelaDay 2017:

Do You or Your Child / Teen Need Support?

Parents in need of support are invited to join a TLC Support Group in their area (contact the nearest CANSA Care Centre), or help to establish one if one doesn’t exist. Parents, families, and supporters can also join the ‘CANSA TLC’ Facebook group to connect with others in a similar position.

¹ Stones, David K., et al. “Childhood cancer survival rates in two South African units.” SAMJ: South African Medical Journal 104.7 (2014): 501 – 504.


CANSA offers a unique integrated service to the public and to all people affected by cancer. CANSA is a leading role-player in cancer research (more than R12 million spent annually) and the scientific findings and knowledge gained from our research are used to realign our health programmes, as well as strengthen our watchdog role to the greater benefit of the public.

Our health programmes comprise health and education campaigns; CANSA Care Centres that offer a wide range of care and support services to those affected by cancer; stoma and other clinical support and organisational management; medical equipment hire, as well as a toll-free line to offer information and support.

We also supply patient care and support in the form of 11 CANSA Care Homes in the main metropolitan areas for out-of-town cancer patients; a Wellness Centre based in Polokwane; and CANSA-TLC lodging for parents and guardians of children undergoing cancer treatment.

For more information contact CANSA:
Visit or contact CANSA toll-free on 0800 22 66 22 or email [email protected] – follow CANSA on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram. CANSA offers multi-lingual support on WhatsApp: 0721979305 for English and Afrikaans, and 0718673530 for Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho and Siswati.