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The effects of COVID-19 on Childhood Cancer

by Saira Hamid

PC: ASHIC, Foundation for Childhood Cancer

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been detrimental to our society in uncountable ways. From the economy to daily livelihood, strict shelter in place mandates have halted many functions in our daily lives. What does this mean for childhood cancer?

People with cancer and/or those who have undergone treatments including chemotherapy, radiation, and bone marrow transplant are recognized as compromised individuals at a higher risk of the effects of COVID. because of this, healthcare professionals have had to search for a balance between prioritizing patients’ safety, and essential visits for treatment like chemo and radiation. In person appointments have been less accessible. Many non-treatment consultations

have moved online.

Global Data

According to a study published in Cancer that is centered around the impact of COVID-19 on childhood cancer, about 37% of essential treatments like those aforementioned have been delayed across 34 centers across 19 countries that took the study’s survey.

  • 24% of the participating centers rejected new patients from their care

  • 28% of the participating centers reported having experienced decline in their clinical care

Patient cancellation of essential visits have also posed to be an issue that’s halting treatment of children with cancer.

  • 6% of the participating centers reported that many of their patients were cancelling their visits in concern of COVID-19.

  • 18% reported that many of their patients cancelled appointments due to transportation and shelter in place restrictions.

  • 9% reported that patients cancelled due to the economic impact of COVID on their accessibility to treatment.

The study also showed an extreme decline in available staff, which slows the flow of consultations in a day due to rotational shifts and bubbles as a means of precaution against the contamination of hospitals.

Resource Constraints

  • 50% of participating centers reported a medication shortage

  • 70% described a shortage in blood products and a decrease in social services support

  • 62% reported delays in surgery and

  • 47% experienced radiation therapy delays.

29% of the participating centers described the impact of COVID-19 as major. 68% described the impact as minor. However, the situation in the Western world may not compare well with developing countries. At ASHIC Foundation, the two major programs that support the children undergoing treatment are the ASHIC Shelter and the Palliative Care Unit. Both centers have seen a 20 – 50% drop in attendance, which may have undocumented implications on survival rates for these children. ASHIC personnel are also unable to make as many social or home visits to keep track of the children and their needs.

This is why, just because data reports that COVID-19’s effects are not awful on childhood cancer as per Western standards, we cannot rest in the fight against it. It’s still an obstacle that families, especially those of lower income, continue to struggle with on a daily basis throughout this year. Please keep them in mind and give generously so that ASHIC continue to support the lives of children living with cancer in Bangladesh.

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