The Childhood Cancer Network South Africa

The Childhood Cancer Network SA

by Lynette Muthuray

The CHILDHOOD CANCER NETWORK SA (The Network) is a multi-stakeholder group of organisations that engage in childhood cancer care and control in South Africa, brought together to establish a network that seeks to collaborate, co-ordinate and advocate on behalf of childhood cancer and life- threatening blood disorders (LTBD) in South Africa.

Over 200,000 children develop cancer worldwide each year. 80% of those children live in low or middle income countries where survival rates can be as low as 5%, compared to 80% in high income countries. In fact, childhood cancer can be curable even in resource-poor countries. It’s possible to save the lives of 50–60% of children with easily treatable malignancies with relatively simple and inexpensive drugs and procedures that have been known to doctors for decades. Although relatively rare, the incidence rate of childhood cancer has been increasing. The American Cancer Society’s 2014 Global Report estimates that one in 408 children worldwide will be diagnosed with cancer before the age of 15. In South Africa, due to a number of reasons including late diagnosis, our survival rate is only around 50%.

The SACCSG’s (South African Children’s Cancer Study Group) runs the South African Children’s Tumour Registry (SACTR). According to the SACTR figures, there were 874 childhood cases reported in 2014 and 920 in 2015. (It should be noted that the majority, but not all of the paediatric oncology units report to the SACTR). While this number is in itself significant, and showing an increase, it is universally accepted that the numbers are under reported. For organisations working with children with cancer and LTBDs, we have over the last few years witnessed a marked and ever increasing demand for childhood cancer support services. All of these statistics and facts point to one conclusion: that childhood cancer is a significant and growing public health challenge in the country.

The Network is a voluntary group of members that meet quarterly to discuss thought leadership matters pertaining to childhood cancer in South Africa. The membership is guided by a Terms of Reference document – this document – which provides a common understanding of the aims and objectives of The Network. It was agreed that CHOC will initially chair The Network, while the hosting of it will rotate among the members.

CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation SA, founded in 1979, is a national organisation dedicated to providing assistance to children that are battling cancer or life-threatening blood disorders. CHOC recognises the inevitable disruption to family life when a child faces vigorous and often lengthy treatment and thus extends support to the families as well. CHOC aims to provide a fully integrated support programme to alleviate as much stress and strain as possible, ensuring that both the children and their families maintain an optimistic outlook that is so crucial to a positive outcome.

*  Lynette Muthuray is the Regional Manager of CHOC Cape Town