SA’s child cancer sufferers falling through the cracks

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More than half South Africas children and adolescents diagnosed with cancer each year are either not being treated or not being reported to the national cancer registry. The Times reports that this is according to the chair of the ministerial advisory committee on the prevention and control of cancer Dr Jennifer Geel, who is quoted as saying that based on the South African population, there should be at least 2,000 to 2,500 more children and adolescents with cancer per year.

“The cases reported to the SA Childrens Cancer Study Group registry for the past five years have ranged from 800 to 1,000 cases per year, meaning that more than half these patients are either not diagnosed, not treated or not reported to the registry,” she said.

Geel said in the report that challenges experienced in South Africa included lack of awareness from medical professionals. “This causes more delays than those from parents or caregivers,” she said.

The report says another challenge was that patients were not being referred directly to specialised paediatric oncology units. “All paediatric oncology units will accept patients with no delay as long as a medical professional contacts them. They will even take self-referrals if necessary if for whatever reason the doctor is not able to refer and it is an emergency.”

However, she said, patients still go through the long referral process from community to primary care clinic to district hospital to secondary-level hospital and finally to tertiary care where the units are based.

The report says childhood and adolescent cancer has been prioritised in the national cancer strategic framework, along with the five priority adult cancers – breast, lung, cervix, prostate and colorectal cancers.

“A working group is busy crafting a specific plan for cancer in children, adolescents and young adults. This is aimed at increasing awareness, diagnosing more patients and raising the survival rates so more children are diagnosed and cured,” Geel said.

The Times report

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