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Eur J Cancer. 2010 Jul;46(11):1960-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2010.03.027. Epub 2010 Apr 18.

Strategies to improve care for children with cancer in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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Department of Paediatrics, College of Medicine, University of Malawi, Blantyre, Malawi.


Great progress has been made in the care of children with cancer in recent decades. Worldwide, more than 80% of children with cancer live in resource-limited countries where access to care is poor. Sub-Saharan Africa is the world's poorest region. Child mortality is high, caused by largely preventable and treatable conditions. Paediatric cancer accounts for only a small fraction of deaths and understandably receives little attention from local policy makers or global health agencies. The survival of children with cancer is very poor. Challenges to improving survival include advanced-stage disease at presentation, failure to start or complete treatment (abandonment), inadequate hospital infrastructure and medications, lack of trained health care providers, lack of cancer registration and follow-up and lack of treatment guidelines adapted to local medical facilities. We propose a stepwise approach that integrates paediatric cancer treatment with existing general paediatric care. Priority is given to interventions (improvement of supportive care, diagnostic facilities) that also improve general paediatric care. Minimal requirements for diagnostic procedures include complete blood counts, HIV and malaria tests, blood cultures, histopathology and simple imaging (X-ray and ultrasonography). Feasible interventions include adequate palliative care, curative treatment for Burkitt lymphoma and Wilms tumour and symptomatic treatment for Kaposi sarcoma.

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