Childhood cancer, a “fragile” reality in the face of COVID-19

    February 15, International Day of Childhood Cancer, a day marked by the impact of COVID-19 on this disease in children and young people. Up to 30% of tests and treatments have been delayed

    This year, the International Day of Childhood Cancer takes on special importance for the Spanish Federation of Parents of Children with Cancer (FEPNC) due to its coexistence with the pandemic.

    “During the pandemic, the tests and treatments of 30% of minors with cancer were affected in the form of delays or changes,” says Juan Antonio Roca, president of the FEPNC.

    For Dr. Ana Fernández-Teijeiro Álvarez, president of the Spanish Society of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology (SEHOP), the first months of the pandemic represented a new variable in the care of children and adolescents with cancer “with the activity of the services restricted and almost limited to the care of infected patients ”.

    This pandemic situation has caused, according to a study prepared by the Federation, the reallocation of resources and a change in health priorities, as revealed in a telematic meeting on childhood cancer.

    Under the title ‘Study of the Impact of COVID-19 in families with children with cancer’, the results indicate that, according to the perception of the families, the coronavirus has not greatly disrupted several aspects.

    For this reason, Children with Cancer joins the international campaign devised by Childhood Cancer International, under the slogan “‘ Better Survival ’is achievable”, that is, ‘Better survival is possible’.

    New concerns

    From the CRIS association against cancer they point out that, each year, more than 1,400 cases of childhood cancer are diagnosed in Spain alone. And, although the experts hopefully detail that there is an 80% survival rate, from CRIS they clarify that the statistic “is devastating.”

    In Spain a child dies every day “and childhood cancer is still considered a rare disease despite being the leading cause of death in pediatric age due to disease”, regrets this association.

    To this situation is added the pandemic, a “new concern” for experts, since it is not yet known exactly what the real impact of COVID-19 on childhood cancer has been.

    “Now, our main concern is to know what the short and long-term consequences will be in the diagnosis and treatment”, explains Ainhoa ​​Fernández, coordinator of the Association of Parents of Children with Cancer of Bizkaia.

    For Ana Fernández-Teijeiro Álvarez, president of the Spanish Society of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology (SEHOP), the experts’ concern does not end there.

    There is also fear that the results of this last year have put the survival rates achieved at risk.

    “Although the infection in these patients is generally mild and with minimal mortality, in the coming years it will be possible to analyze the real impact of the pandemic on the survival of children and adolescents with malignant tumors in Spain,” explains Dr. Fernández-Teijeiro .

    Impacts in the first months

    Despite the fact that there is currently no data that reflects the consequences of the coronavirus in childhood cancer, professionals say that they do know that it has been a difficult situation for the families of these children.

    They point out that they have experienced stressful situations that have added to the disease, causing greater emotional exhaustion.

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