Pandemic having major impact on childhood cancer care: study

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PARIS, March 4, 2021 (BSS/AFP) – The pandemic has had a “substantial”
impact on childhood cancer care worldwide, with a marked rise in the number
of patients abandoning treatment altogether, new research showed Thursday.

Covid-19 has placed huge pressure on hospitals and healthcare systems,
particularly in developing nations, as most medical facilities have been
inundated with Covid patients.

A global assessment of the impact of Covid-19 on paediatric cancer care
showed that care was affected at more than three quarters (78 percent) of
hospitals.

Almost half (43 percent) reported diagnosing fewer new cases than expected,
while 34 percent reported a rise in the number of patients who stopped
treatment.

Perhaps most worryingly, seven precent of hospitals surveyed reported
having to close their paediatric cancer units entirely at some stage during
the pandemic.

The vast majority of these — 87 percent — were in low- and middle-income
countries (LMICs).

“Hospitals in LMICs were under strain even before the pandemic, with fewer
resources and less access to care for children with cancer,” said Daniel
Moreira, managing director of the US’s St Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“So our results seem to reflect the relative strength of different
healthcare systems around the world.”

Among the more than 200 hospitals contacted in 79 countries for the survey,
79 percent reported a reduction in child cancer surgery.

More than half noted shortages in blood products and 57 percent reported
shortages of chemotherapy treatment.

The pandemic also diverted resources such as funding and bed base from
childhood cancer care, according the survey results published in The Lancet
Child & Adolescent Health journal.

Around one third (32 percent) of hospitals surveyed reported decreased
financial support, while 19 percent reported a reduction in available beds.

Writing in a linked comment article to the survey, Soad Fuentes-Alabi, of
El Salvador’s Ayudame a Vivir Foundation Medical Center said the research
showed the struggles experienced by childhood cancer patients in less-
developed countries.

“The common issues of late diagnosis and treatment abandonment or
interruptions have worsened during the pandemic,” she said.