While the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on all aspects of life, it has been particularly disruptive for the treatment of children and young people with cancer, according to a review published in ecancermedicalscience, an open access cancer journal focused on under-resourced communities.
"Unlike a medical emergency where a life may be saved immediately, saving the life of a child with cancer is a marathon, not a sprint," state the authors, led by Professor Kathy Pritchard-Jones, President of the International Society of Paediatric Oncology (SIOP), Steinhausen, Switzerland and Professor of Paediatric Oncology at UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, University College London, UK.
"The disruption of health services during this pandemic presents a serious challenge to maintaining and improving the diagnosis, treatment and care of children and adolescents with cancer."
Speaking on behalf of several international organisations dedicated to the care of children with cancer, as well as leading international hospitals, the authors identified challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as re-allocation of resources including staff, shortages and supply line disruptions affecting medicines, reduced public awareness, and treatment interruptions and delays.
The review outlines a multi-pronged, evidence-based strategy to meet and overcome these challenges.
The authors triaged the impacts of COVID-19 on the delivery of cancer care, identifying which aspects of COVID-19 mitigation and recovery will need to mesh with the priorities of childhood cancer care - such as ensuring the continued delivery of vital services and strengthening supply chains.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer (GICC) was launched in 2018.
While the authors acknowledge the impact of the pandemic on achieving the WHO GICC goals, they stress that the "forward momentum (of achievement) must not be lost."
"It's reasonable to focus attention and resources on the immediate crisis - but as leaders in the field, it's also our responsibility to look beyond the firefighting and into the broader future; this is why we call for integration of childhood cancer services into COVID-19 response strategies at all governance levels and keeping NCDs on the agenda even in light of the pandemic" says Professor Pritchard-Jones.
"When we look back at this point of history, we'll know that we advised and supported our communities to the best of our ability and did so in collaboration with all stakeholders including parents and patient organisations who are at the heart of our efforts."
For more information read research article here.
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