Paediatric cancer treatment in a shambles | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 24, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, June 24, 2019


Paediatric cancer treatment in a shambles

It must be made affordable

A report in this daily gives us startling revelations of the state of paediatric treatment in this country. Although childhood cancer is on the rise, the facilities available to treat it are very scarce and often too expensive for most people.

According to data of a public hospital from 2010 to 2018, about 35 percent of children with cancer cannot continue with treatment because their families cannot afford them; around 12 percent of patients do not go for treatment at all because of the high costs. A study published in a US medical journal estimates around 5,500 to 6,700 new cases of childhood cancer of children below 15 every year. The report estimates an increase in childhood cancer by 30 percent by next year in developing countries. Which makes the need for expanding facilities and improving existing ones all the more immediate.

What is most disturbing is that there is a gross lack of awareness among clinicians and the public, inadequate health care facilities and no cancer registry—thus throwing us into the dark regarding how much the burden of childhood cancer is. Such information is essential for policymaking and strategic interventions by the government and the private sector.

An investigation by this daily has shown that public hospitals where people of modest means go to have to turn away around five to seven patients each day from the paediatric cancer ward, because there aren’t enough beds. There are only eight public hospitals (five of them are in Dhaka) with the set-up to treat such cancers. Adequate financial support from the government would dramatically change this bleak scenario. In fact, according to the study, as much as 53 percent of child patients in DMCH who undergo such treatment get cured while 50 to 60 percent at another public hospital get back to near-normal life after treatment.

Thus, investing in cancer treatment facilities in public hospitals will make a great difference in the lives of children with cancer. It will also encourage more doctors to specialise in paediatric oncology, which will mean more specialists in public hospitals. We urge the government to make cancer care affordable to the majority and save the lives of countless children.

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