PAHO calls for stepped-up action to improve childhood cancer survival


PAHO calls for stepped-up action to improve childhood cancer survival

Monday, March 02, 2020

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WASHINGTON, DC, United States (CMC) — The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is calling for stepped-up action to improve the survival rate for children suffering from cancer in the Caribbean.

PAHO said that globally cancer is among the leading causes of death in children under age 15.

However, while in high-income countries, more than eight in 10 children with cancer are able to survive the illness, thanks to early diagnosis and effective treatment, PAHO said in several Caribbean countries, the two-year overall survival rate is only about 55 per cent.

It said higher toxicity of cancer treatments and patients abandoning their treatment are the main barriers to successful outcomes, pointing to experts who say that strengthening health systems is the best way to address these challenges.

Paediatric cancer experts and health authorities in the Caribbean, as well representatives from the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and St Jude Children's Research Hospital recently met in Trinidad “to map out ways to increase support and action—at both the country and international levels—to reduce deaths in children and adolescents with cancer in the Caribbean through strengthened health systems, focusing on improving diagnosis, treatment, training and family support”.

PAHO said the meeting identified priority areas of action as: earlier detection and diagnosis of childhood cancer in primary care, with timely referral for specialised treatment; increased access to essential medicines for childhood cancer; training and continuing multi-disciplinary medical education for specialists and primary care providers; improved continuity of care, including for children who live far from treatment centres to prevent abandonment of treatment; and the production and sharing of evidence for public health use and to mobilise political and financial support.

“Childhood cancer treatment is very cost-effective, and many more children's lives can be saved by ensuring that the health system is well equipped to diagnose and treat children with cancer and provide support to their families,'' said Silvana Luciani, head of PAHO's non-communicable diseases unit.

PAHO said the actions proposed by the experts build on earlier efforts by the SickKids-Caribbean Initiative (SCI), established in 2013 to build sustainable local capacity to diagnose, treat and manage paediatric cancers and blood disorders in six participating countries, namely The Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.

The current efforts are also part of the broader Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2018 “to improve survival rates by addressing barriers to access and quality of care for children with cancer”, PAHO said.

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