Coronation Street’s Fizz and Tyrone have been told the devastating news their daughter Hope, aged five, has neuroblastoma, which is the second most common cancer found in children.
For parents and families this is an extremely distressing and emotional time, and the ITV soap will be following Hope’s heartbreaking journey.
“Neuroblastoma most commonly occurs in the abdomen (tummy) in either one of the two adrenal glands, and a lump or swelling can be seen in this area. It can cause constipation and general discomfort and pain to the child,” explains Susan Hay, Chair of Neuroblastoma UK, the leading UK based research charity for neuroblastoma, and also one of the advisors to ITV’s Coronation Street for Hope’s story.
“As with Hope, a lot of children just feel a little off colour to begin with, including loss of appetite and tiredness,” continues Susan. “It is very difficult as a parent to know when you should start to worry and demand more tests from the doctor.”
Outlined below are the main symptoms to look out for if you feel your child might be unwell. This is by no means a definitive list, and if your child does show some of the signs, it does not necessarily mean they have neuroblastoma.
- A lump or swelling in the child’s abdomen
- An unsteady walk, bone pain or difficulty in passing urine
- A lump in the child’s neck that can make them breathless or create difficulty in swallowing
- Numbness, weakness or loss of movement in the child’s lower body
- Anemia, bruising, bleeding and infections
- Bluish lumps in the child’s skin
“We do not wish to panic parents with any of the above, as they could also be the sign of a number of illnesses during childhood, but these are the most common to look out for,” says Susan. “If you do feel your child shows signs, then it is best to make an appointment with your GP and explain your concerns.”
If neuroblastoma is suspected, then tests will be carried out. These are generally a biopsy of the suspected tumour, such as x-rays, CT or MRI scans and blood and urine tests. As with all medical tests, the wait for results is agonizing, but the tests themselves cause minimal discomfort to the child.
“The word ‘cancer’ is distressing to anyone, but to hear your own child has cancer is utterly devastating,” continues Susan. “Neuroblastoma UK not only researches into new treatment for the aggressive cancer, but also offers support to parents and families who are affected by it. It can be a very lonely and isolating journey for a lot of families and siblings, and we try and help as much as we can. Although it is tempting to find information from the Internet, neuroblastoma affects each child differently and it is really your consultant who will have the best information.”
To find out more about neuroblastoma, visit www.neuroblastoma.org.uk, or call the helpline on 0300 102 0347.