Dr Robert Carr on barriers to treatment in Myanmar

Many families in developing countries, especially those living in rural areas, do not know about childhood cancer. Some have no awareness that cancer can affect children at all meaning the diagnosis of many children has been delayed or comes too late for curable treatment.

Spotting the early warning signs of childhood cancer is imperative to providing children a faster route to treatment. Children in the developing world do not have easy access to specialist doctors with many families maintaining strong beliefs in traditional medicines. This belief will mean that poorly children will most likely be taken to a local healer before hospital. Children then only reach hospital once local remedies have resulted in unsuccessful treatment.

Even if they get to a proper doctor, they still might not recognise the symptoms of cancer and so it can take a very long time for them to actually get in the front door of a hospital with the capabilities of treating for childhood cancer.

Dr Robert Carr, a Consultant Haematologist and volunteer for World child cancer leads the UK twinning programme between the Evelina Children’s Hospital at Guy’s & St Thomas’ London and Yangon Children’s Hospital in Myanmar. Dr Carr advocates raising awareness of childhood cancer in local communities by linking traditional healers to medical communities. This would allow faster and more accurate diagnosis for children with cancer and ultimately quicker access to treatment.

Forming partnerships between healthcare workers in the developed world and developing countries is something we can do and have done successfully. Children in Myanmar for example have benefited from early diagnosis with more children being referred to hospitals and ultimately having better access to treatment.

These partnerships enable professionals to educate local frontline healthcare workers so they can make referrals and encourage parents to take their children to hospital instead of the local healer.

World Child Cancer’s vision is a world where every child, regardless of where they live, receives the best possible treatment and care. You can help make this vision a reality by helping to Stop the Childhood Cancer Clock by giving the gift of growing up.