Strengthening Pediatric Oncology Skills in Ghana and Cameroon
Causes of childhood cancers remain unknown, precluding prevention strategies. Thus, to improve childhood cancer survival, it is necessary to improve early diagnosis, quality of treatment, and access to that treatment.
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Childhood cancer is highly curable. In high-income countries such as the UK, 84% of children who develop cancer survive. Yet chances of survival are under 30% for children in Ghana, and under 15% for children in Cameroon. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), each year an estimated 1,525 children aged 0-14 develop cancer in Ghana, and 1,390 children develop cancer in Cameroon. Too many of these children die unnecessarily when they could be treated at a relatively low cost.
The need for our intervention for oncology HCPs in Cameroon and Ghana
Causes of childhood cancers remain unknown, precluding prevention strategies. Thus, to improve childhood cancer survival, it is necessary to improve early diagnosis, quality of treatment, and access to that treatment. We are currently working with experienced partners to deliver specialist paediatric oncology training programmes to qualify paediatric oncologists, which will have positive impact across West Africa. This proposed project aims to help fill other gaps in paediatric oncology training provision, with a focus on training frontline healthcare workers to recognise early warning signs of childhood cancer; training oncology nurses in paediatric oncology, and training of healthcare professionals in palliative care for children with cancer. Improved basic care and early diagnosis/referral will significantly impact survival outcomes. Much of this can be achieved by better trained staff at each level of the healthcare system. 1) Diagnosis 2) Specialist oncology skills to improve quality of treatment 3) Palliative care training to improve services for children with cancer.
The programme’s ultimate goal is to help improve equitable access to higher-quality treatment and care for children with cancer in Cameroon and Ghana. This will be achieved through strengthening the capacity of healthcare professionals both working in paediatric oncology services, and those on the ‘frontline’ of medical care who are responsible for making referrals. We will:
- Improve 1,265 primary healthcare workers’ capacity to recognise early warning signs of childhood cancer and know how to make appropriate quick referrals for further investigation and diagnosis. By ensuring more children are referred, and quickly, we will increase the numbers reaching treatment at an earlier stage of illness, when chances of survival are greater and treatment can often be shorter and less aggressive, which is likely to reduce disability.
- Improve 20 oncology nurses’ knowledge and skills in specialist paediatric oncology nursing practice. With few specialist oncologist doctors available, the role of oncology nurses is pivotal and their improved skills will contribute to improve outcomes for the children with cancer they look after.
- Improve 30 healthcare professionals’ capacity on palliative care for children with cancer. Training on palliative will help reduce suffering for children undergoing treatment and for those whose cancer is incurable.
Results and milestones
Improve 1,265 primary healthcare workers’ capacity to recognise early warning signs of childhood cancer: 1,142 healthcare workers have now been directly trained to date in Early Warning Signs and Symptoms (EWSS) of childhood cancer, which has equipped them with the skills to recognise, and quickly refer suspected cases. 462 were trained in Ghana, and 680 in Cameroon. In Cameroon, in consultation with the Ministry of Health, we delivered the training in the following way: doing a training of trainers for 210 senior healthcare professionals from various districts, who then trained another 470 healthcare professionals during district coordination meetings.
Improve 20 oncology nurses’ knowledge and skills in specialist paediatric oncology nursing practice in the cancer units of the CBCH Services, Cameroon: A Foundation Course in Paediatric Oncology Nursing has been finalised. 25 nurses were trained, upskilling them in early detection and referral of suspected childhood cancer cases, and in childhood cancer management and care.
Improve 30 healthcare professionals’ capacity on palliative care for children with cancer in Northern Cameroon: Training packages were refined and delivered in September to 22 nurses and 3 doctors, upskilling them in holistic care and promoting wellbeing for patients with life-limiting illness.
- Non-communicable diseases
SGDs the partnership contributes to
- 3.8: Achieve universal health coverage
- 3.C: Health workforce
Ghana Society for Pediatric Oncology
Sub Saharan Africa Nursing Network for Training
International Society of Paediatric Oncology (SIOP)
Cameroon Paediatric Oncology Group
World Child Cancer
Ghana Health Service (GHS)
Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services (CBC)
- Childhood Cancer