Empowering Primary Health Care Workers to aid the Early Detection of Childhood Cancer in LMIC

Korede Akindele is a childhood cancer advocate and programs head at the Dorcas Cancer Foundation in Nigeria. He is also a member of the SIOP YI social media & blog committee this year.  

Every year, thousands of children are diagnosed with cancer, with more than 80% of these children living in Low- and Middle-Income countries such as Nigeria.

Available data has shown a disproportionate burden of disease in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) like Nigeria. An estimated 85% of all new cases and 90% of all deaths in children due to cancer occur in LMICs.

Over the years, many reasons such as deficient health-seeking behavior of parents/caregivers, infrastructural and economic deficiencies been reported as causes of lower survival rates in LMIC's.

However, deficiencies in the healthcare system may also account for an unmeasured portion of these factors leading to persistent delayed presentation. While efforts towards improved societal awareness, de-stigmatization of cancer, and a continued education of the global trend of childhood cancer in the primary health systems must be giving attention to reduce the burden of delayed diagnosis and prompt treatment.

Primary/Community-based health workers are, however critical players in population-based interventional programs, and to reduce the burden of late diagnosis of cancer in children, we must pay critical attention to detailed education of childhood cancer among them Primary/Community-based health workers since they reside in the communities and are closest to the people.

This set of health workers at this level would better serve as a great tool for improved survival in LMIC's if they had the knowledge, skills and capacity to determine who needs to be referred for specialist or higher care in a timely fashion.

More so in a region endemic for several infectious diseases, the ability to make the distinction between common infectious diseases like malaria or typhoid fever, and a suspected case of cancer by having a high index of suspicion or at least consider the possibility of cancer in a child would be valuable to detection, early referral, diagnosis and treatment; and ultimately to survival.

This is a method is currently been stirred at The Dorcas Cancer Foundation to reduce the burden of childhood cancer in Nigeria and I believe its adoption into other LMIC''s can help to achieve World Health Organization global initiative for Childhood Cancer of at least 60 percent survival globally and reduce the suffering of all children with cancer by 2030.