Monday, March 24, 2014

Rolling Out Cancer Care for all Children in Bangladesh

Right now only children who come to BSMMU or Dhaka Medical College will get curative treatment if they have cancer.  Many children are brought to BSMMU from outside of Dhaka for treatment, but because of the expense of travel and lost work time for parents, there are many more children who are not able to get treatment for their cancer because their families simply cannot afford to bring them to Dhaka.  Unfortunately without the specialized treatments available in Dhaka, these children will die.

This partially explains why instead of the expected 8000 cases/year of childhood cancer, only 1200 cases are diagnosed yearly.  The majority of children do not make it to an appropriately specialized hospital facility to get diagnosed.

Part of the work of World Child Cancer (the NGO that I volunteer with) is to try to ensure as many children as possible receive appropriate treatment for cancer.  This means that we need to reach the 6800 children/year who are not making it to BSMMU or Dhaka Medical College.  Fortunately, World Child Cancer has just received funding to develop and implement a National Cancer Strategy for Bangladesh.

This means that I will be working on getting treatment centres of childhood cancer set up in Chittigong and Syhlet, two other cities in Bangladesh. This will mean visiting these centres, training and supporting the doctors and collecting data on all the patients with cancer who are seen at these hospitals.  Does this sound like a big job?  It definitely is!

This will also be a great opportunity for me to learn more about how to develop a treatment strategy for an entire country and how to implement it!  I am really excited to be part of this work.  The plan is to incorporate palliative care into all aspects of the cancer care as even when child receive curative therapy, unfortunately only 50% will be cured (compared to 80% in developed countries).

At first he was a bit shy to play with toys, but did start playing with them a bit later.

Paint with water is a huge hit with the older kids; they have never seen it before!

Sonia loves to colour, she will find me whenever she is in the hospital and ask for pencil crayons and paper.  She has two older sisters who stay with her when she is hospitalized.

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