Childhood cancers in low-resource settings: Reinforcing the need for intensification of efforts

The mortality rate for childhood cancer is considerably lower in resource-rich countries than in low-resource settings, but early diagnosis plays a critical role in ensuring a child’s survival. According to World Health Statistics 2011, a collection of health-related data from 193 member states, the number of physicians per 10,000 residents in high-income and upper middle-income countries is between 10 and 14 times higher than in low-resource settings. The number of beds in hospitals is also more than double that of low-resource countries.

Researchers have compiled data on cancer incidence in low-resource settings, as well as the factors affecting childhood cancer survival. Their findings are presented in Volume 3 of Disease Control Priorities, which includes chapters on reducing the burden of pediatric cancer. The authors emphasize the need to focus more resources on improving access to quality care for children living in low-resource settings. The journal Annals of Tropical Medicine and Public Health will publish the study’s findings.

Efforts to prevent childhood cancer deaths in low-resource settings must be directed toward preventing and reversing the disease. For example, the most common type of childhood cancer in LMICs is Burkitt’s lymphoma, which is fatal within a few weeks. Supportive care and community empowerment are critical for improving the chances of survival for children with this form of cancer.

Childhood cancer in low-resource settings can be prevented by raising awareness of the disease and providing early detection. For instance, tobacco control should be supported by the government to reduce multiple tobacco-related diseases. And prophylactic HPV vaccinations for young girls could help reduce the risk of cervical cancer among young girls. Other cancers in low-resource settings can be detected and treated by novel methods, such as the Papanicolaou test and cervical screening.

AfrOx is an organization that helps African countries implement cancer prevention programs. The aim of this nonprofit organization is to reduce the mortality rate of children with cancer in low-resource settings. The research team found that the incidence of childhood brain tumors was significantly higher in low-resource settings than in high-income countries. In addition, they reported fewer cases of child death than in high-resource nations.

The World Health Assembly, a decision-making body of the World Health Organization, urged member states to address the epidemic of childhood cancers in low-resource settings. In response, the World Health Organization, St. Jude, and AfrOx launched a $15 million partnership to support the development of cancer-prevention programs. The initiative aims to improve access to high-quality medicines for all children suffering from cancer in low-resource settings.

The underlying causes of cancer in low-resource settings are complicated and often unrecognized. These countries lack the resources and the expertise to detect and treat the disease. For these reasons, the burden of morbidity and mortality of childhood cancers is particularly high in low-resource countries. The research in these settings needs to be conducted in order to better understand these factors. A systematic review of the literature on this issue is necessary to develop strategies for effective cancer prevention and care in these areas.

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