Figures reveal a striking disparity in five-year cancer survival rates for children in developing nations compared with those from rich countries, The Guardian reports.
More than 80% of children diagnosed with the disease in high-income states will live for more than five years, yet fewer than 30% of young people with cancer in low- and middle-income nations have the same chance of survival, research has shown.
Every year, 429,000 children and adolescents are expected to develop cancer. The vast majority of those – 384,000 – are from developing countries, according to a paediatric cancer study published in Science magazine.
Treatment failure is common in poorer countries for various reasons, including failure to diagnose, misdiagnoses, unaffordable or abandoned treatment, and toxic death – yet most of these reasons are preventable, according to the study’s first author Catherine Lam, a paediatric oncologistat St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, in Memphis.
The research suggests that simple interventions such as providing free meals and temporary housing could help improve global survival rates.
Poverty, treatment cost and distance from cancer centres are major contributors to patients abandoning their treatment in developing countries.
But by providing support for well-trained cancer treatment teams and by eliminating abandonment – whereby a child starts treatment but cannot continue, usually due to socioeconomic barriers – poorer nations could double their current rates of cancer survival.
“Abandonment can be prevented with inexpensive, low-technology interventions like providing a free guesthouse for patients who come from out of town to get their treatment, and could raise the cure rate by 23 percentage points – from about 25% to 48% – by eliminating it altogether,” said Scott Howard, secretary-general of the International Society of Paediatric Oncology, who co-authored the study.
“At key centres in Recife, Brazil, abandonment has been decreased from 16% to 0%, in El Salvador from 20% to 2%, and in Ethiopia from 95% to 30%, with similarly dramatic reductions in many parts of the world. ”