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International Childhood Cancer Day 2021: How To Enhance Care of Paediatric Cancer Patients During Covid-19?

February 15th is globally celebrated as the International Childhood Cancer Day to extend support and solidarity to children and adolescents with cancer, the survivors, and their family members. When Covid- 19 was declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in March 2020, the Government of India declared a national lockdown on 23rd March 2020 that was to extend for the next six months. While it was a necessary step to reduce the rate of infections, people with ‘comorbidities’ suffered a setback with stringent ‘stay-at-home’ restrictions. It was especially debilitating for people with cancer, who required round the clock medical supervision and consultation, particularly children.

Experts maintain that this had a very difficult outcome for children with cancer in India because of the inability of their family members to travel to the hospitals due to strict lockdown rules and, the rising cases of Covid-19 made it difficult for newly cancer diagnosed patients to have access to medical treatment. Moreover, existing patients also had to face an interruption in their treatment as the entire focus and onus of medical attention shifted to Covid-19 patients. As we inch closer to a grim 1 year since the pandemic, it is essential for us to adapt ourselves to the new normal and at the same time come up with sensitive, normative and structural changes to help people, particularly children with cancer, regularize their procedural treatment and mental well being to ensure that they do not fall outside the radar of the care economy. To mark this occasion today, in this article, we are going to talk about how we can take better care of our children affected by cancer. Let’s find out from the list below -

1. Cohesion With NGOs

Fighting Coronavirus has been exhausting on all fronts and it has been extremely challenging to address the mental disorders faced by people. Long days of isolation leading up to anxiety and depression have flooded the globe and the odds have been higher for children with cancer. We need to accept that not every vacuum can be fulfilled by doctors or their parents and that is why we need more cooperation with NGOs or non-governmental bodies to help them recover sooner. Children with cancer undoubtedly require greater moral grit, empathy, and compassion to continue their battle. The communication gap between doctors, pediatric cancer patients, and their children can be effectively filled in by many volunteers, experienced activists, and caregivers who can work in cooperation with government institutions and hospitals to reduce the negative impact of lockdown on such children.

2. Innovation And Modification Of Treatment

Since cancer patients are considered to be more susceptible to the morbidities of the Coronavirus, medical practitioners should aim to modify their treatment procedure so as to minimize the exposure and infection of Covid-19 of pediatric cancer patients at a maximum level. Newer strategies and designs of ongoing or recent diagnosis can be undertaken within the ethics and permissibility of medical practice that does not require the children to visit the hospitals or medical centers frequently. Modifications should enable pediatric cancer patients to receive their treatment at home or at a center closer to home and non-essential hospital visits can either be postponed or completely stopped. The supply of PPE kits, medicines, and diagnostics can be augmented by many non-governmental organizations, as stated above.

3. Reordering Hospital Indoors

To ensure physical distancing, the safety of its staff from exposure and to conform to the government guidelines while enabling cancer patients to continue their treatment, hospital premises should undergo a complete overhaul of their interior spaces. Minimizing person to person contact, the number of visitors to oncology wards should also be limited drastically and total utilization of telehealth services is being recommended for easing the communication of non-critical outpatients, thereby improving the chances and opportunities for children with cancer to visit health clinics for receiving follow-up treatments.

4. Reduced Risk With New Researches 

While some innovations have already been adopted to aid child cancer patients to cope with the challenges of battling cancer amidst Covid-19, researchers and doctors are now offering positive viewpoints on the same. It is recently being held that the impact of Covid-19 infections amongst cancer patients is minimal as compared to earlier reports and with proper precautions, it would not be a problem for them to access treatment under the circumstances.

The above points will hopefully help us to steer ourselves towards a more inclusive future where children with cancer can avail better access to medical facilities. As survival itself has been a very contending issue since the year gone by, it is essential for us to echo the mantra of this year’s International Childhood Cancer Day: ‘I Am And I Will’ for better survival, cohesion, and victory in fighting the battle against cancer and Covid-19 at the same time.

Disclaimer: This article is issued in the general public interest and meant for general information purposes only. Readers are advised not to rely on the contents of the article as conclusive in nature and should research further or consult an expert in this regard.

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