With television soaps revealing the reality about terminal illnesses, Coronation Street is once again tackling a highly sensitive and emotive storyline involving neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer.
The soap has unravelled the agony and distress that Fizz, played by Jennie MacAlpine, goes through as she initially learns that her daughter Hope, aged five, is diagnosed with cancer. After investigations this is confirmed to be neuroblastoma, a very serious type of childhood cancer.
Neuroblastoma UK, the leading charity in the UK which focuses exclusively on neuroblastoma research, is grateful that this exceptional type of childhood cancer finally has a platform in the public eye. “Around 100 children in the UK are diagnosed every year with neuroblastoma, and most of them are less than five years old,” says Susan Hay, chair of Neuroblastoma UK.
“Even though neuroblastoma is the second most common solid tumour in children, most people are unaware of its existence, which is why we as a charity are really pleased that a leading television soap such as Coronation Street is highlighting it.”
Neuroblastoma is usually very difficult to diagnose early as there may be few symptoms, or a collection of symptoms that are vague and not specific to neuroblastoma. The tumour most commonly arises in one of the two adrenal glands in the abdomen, or in the nerve tissues that run alongside the spinal cord. The most common symptom that neuroblastoma presents with is a lump or swelling in the child’s abdomen which can cause general discomfort and constipation, which of course can often be mistaken for many other common childhood illnesses.
Low and intermediate risk neuroblastoma usually have a good chance of being successfully treated, but patients with high or ultra high risk have a very aggressive form of neuroblastoma that still, despite improvements in treatment through clinical trials, has a poor prognosis. The treatment for patients with high and ultra high risk neuroblastoma is very intensive and often lasts for up to 15 months, which puts a huge amount of strain on the child and family.
“Diagnosis followed by the start of treatment is an extremely distressing time for all parents and families,” Susan adds. “Our organisation aims to help families at this time by offering support and advice through our Parents’ Booklet which we produce in conjunction with the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group.”
For more information: www.neuroblastoma.org.uk, or call the helpline on 0300 102 0347. Text NBUK15 £10 to 70070 and help save children’s lives today.