New information on childhood cancer for professionals and families of children and adolescents with cancer – PAHO/WHO

September is the month to fight cancer among children and adolescents

The Pan American Health Organization has provided healthcare professionals and families of children and adolescents with cancer with new information about childhood cancer to support them in caring for these patients. These are the Handbook of Nutritional Care in Pediatric Cancer to improve knowledge of the important role of nutrition in the care of people with childhood cancer, and a series of modules on psychosocial care to increase the ability to provide better psychosocial care and support of this vulnerable population.

In addition, PAHO publishes childhood cancer situational analyzes on timely diagnosis, treatment dropouts, nutrition in pediatric cancer and palliative care, which allow the establishment of a baseline for determining work priorities and opportunities for improving these issues at the regional level. and thus reduce the influence of factors associated with childhood cancer mortality.

These new posts coincide with the observance of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is joining these awareness efforts to promote improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of childhood cancer, which continues to be one of the leading causes of death from the disease in the Americas.

Nutritional and psychosocial care for children and adolescents with cancer

Quality care and attention for pediatric oncology patients must be comprehensive to provide better opportunities for cure and a more fulfilling life for patients. It encompasses much more than just cancer treatment and includes nutritional, psychosocial, palliative care and aspects of oral health, among others. The resources developed by PAHO, supported by a group of experts from 17 countries, are designed to help multidisciplinary teams in this task, which needs to be strengthened, as these are issues that are sometimes not prioritized in the treatment plan.

The Pediatric Cancer Nutrition Care Guideline seeks to standardize management criteria in children and adolescents with cancer to reduce malnutrition (underweight, weight loss, and obesity) and its negative impact on survival. This is a guide aimed at the multidisciplinary team of pediatric oncology care that addresses, based on the best evidence, nutritional screening, nutritional risk assessment, nutritional care plans and initiatives to promote healthy lifestyles, healthy lifestyles life for disease survivors.

On the other hand, the series of orientations in psychosocial care consists of a collection of 6 modules that deal with the social, psychological, spiritual and functional dimensions of the patients’ disease process. The recommendations contained are evidence-based and have been developed and reviewed by professionals from Latin America and the Caribbean to develop a proposal that responds to the reality of the region.

These new resources add to previously existing ones, such as the series of palliative care modules or the virtual course on early diagnosis of cancer in children and adolescents, available in English, Spanish and Portuguese. To date, more than 57,000 professionals from 81 countries have taken the course to increase knowledge about childhood cancer and early detection of these diseases.

Reducing preventable deaths from childhood cancer

In Latin America and the Caribbean, it is estimated that at least 29,000 children under the age of 19 are diagnosed with cancer annually, and about 10,000 will die, according to data from GLOBOCAN 2020, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) database of the World Health Organization (WHO).

In 2018, WHO launched the Global Childhood Cancer Initiative with the goal of achieving a five-year survival rate of at least 60% after childhood and adolescent cancer diagnosis by 2030.

“There are many global disparities in childhood cancer care and health outcomes,” said Dr. Anselm Hennis, director of PAHO’s Division of Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health. “To achieve this goal, the CureAll Americas initiative is implemented in the Region, which seeks to support countries in increasing the capacity to provide adequate and necessary services for the management of childhood cancer, as well as increasing the visibility and recognition of these diseases as a priority nationally, regionally and globally,” he added.

The majority of children and adolescents with cancer live in low- and middle-income countries, where access to early detection, diagnosis and treatment services is often limited, resulting in poorer outcomes in high-income countries. Many of the preventable deaths associated with childhood cancer are due to problems related to late diagnosis, abandonment of treatment, malnutrition and lack of supportive care.

Access to new resources

CureAll Americas Initiative Page

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