A LOCAL non-profit organisation that provides support, information, and advocacy to children with cancer and their families, has released troubling statistics indicating that childhood cancer cases are on the rise in the rural parts of Zambia.

Increased cancer rates are apt to stir concern among parents and rightly so.

It is unfortunate that childhood cancer cases are rising at a time that the national health system is grappling with the burden of adult cancer rates which sadly – going by how busy the Lusaka-based Cancer Diseases Hospital is – are on an upward trajectory as well.

Available data collected by various researchers show increased childhood cancer rates likely stem from environmental factors.

Over the past four decades, the environment has changed significantly, with more and more chemicals entering the air and water, combined with genetic traits.

Cancer Diseases Hospital (CDH) head of clinical care Susan Msadabwe said although childhood cancer cannot be cured, dealing with the disease required early detection and treatment.

The World Health Organisation has identified cancer as a leading cause of death for children and adolescents. The likelihood of surviving a diagnosis of childhood cancer depends on the country in which the child lives. In high-income countries with robust health care systems, more than 80 per cent of children with cancer are cured, but in many low and medium income countries (LMICs) like Zambia, less than 30 per cent are cured.

The reasons for lower survival rates in LMICs include: delay in diagnosis, an inability to obtain an accurate diagnosis, inaccessible therapy, abandonment of treatment, death from toxicity (side effects), and avoidable relapse.

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