In high-income countries more than 80 per cent of children with cancer are cured, but in many LMICs only 20 per cent are cured.
The reasons for lower survival rates in LMICs include an inability to obtain an accurate diagnosis, inaccessible therapy, abandonment of treatment, death from toxicity (side effects), and excess relapse, in part due to lack of access to essential medicines and technologies addressing each of these gaps improves survival and can be highly cost-effective.
Cancer occurs in people of all ages and can affect any part of the body. It begins with genetic changes in a single cell that then grows out of control. In many cancers, this results in a mass (or tumour). If left untreated, cancer generally expands, invades other parts of the body and causes death.
Unlike cancer in adults, the vast majority of childhood cancers do not have a known cause. Many studies have sought to identify the causes of childhood cancer, but very few cancers in children are caused by environmental or lifestyle factors. Cancer prevention efforts in children should focus on behaviours that will prevent the child from developing preventable cancer as an adult.
Some chronic infections are risk factors for childhood cancer and have major relevance in low- and middle-income countries.
For example, HIV, Epstein-Barr virus and malaria increase the risk of some childhood cancers. Other infections can increase the child’s risk of developing cancer as an adult, so it is important to be vaccinated and other pursue other methods such as early diagnosis or screening to decrease chronic infections that lead to cancer, whether in childhood or later. (UNI)