Every child should have the chance of life

15 February 2020

Each year, over 300,000 children and adolescents aged between 0-19 years old are diagnosed with cancer1. Despite many childhood cancers being treatable, over 80,000 children die each year with the majority of these deaths occurring in low-and-middle-income countries2.

Childhood cancer survival rates are currently estimated at 80% in high-income countries but drop significantly low to as little as 10% in low- and middle-income countries. This stark difference in cancer survival rates, particularly for curable cancers, has become a huge concern for paediatric oncologists, parents, advocates and public health officials.

To help address this issue, UICC alongside the International Society of Paediatric Oncology (SIOP), and the Children's Cancer Center of Lebanon (CCCL) will host a session on childhood cancer at the next 2020 World Cancer Congress in Oman. The session seeks to highlight key learnings from the implementation of the WHO Global Childhood cancer initiative launched in 2018. Participants will be able to access available tools, guidelines and share best practices to improve childhood cancer care in their respective countries.

Survival rates among children with cancer can be improved significantly with effective low-cost models of holistic care and support. In LMICs like India, focus on access to care is key. By combining awareness and early detection followed by effective treatment approaches, we can save the lives of so many children which are currently unnecessarily lost due to cancer’, Said Poonam Bagai, Founder Chairman Cankids Kidscan, National Society for Change for Childhood Cancer in India, Cancer Survivor and Patient Advocate.

Why is there such a difference in survival rates?

Children living in low middle-income countries are four times as likely to die of the disease than those living in high-income countries3 and this is mostly due to:

  • Insufficient knowledge and awareness of warning signs by health workers
  • Weak or non-existent referral for diagnosis, treatment and care
  • Insufficient expertise in childhood cancer, treatment and care
  • Long delays between recognising signs and symptoms and referral
  • High rates of treatment abandonment due to distance and/ or treatment costs

With this in mind, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched the Global Childhood cancer initiative in 2018 which aims to increase the cancer survival rate of children to 60% worldwide by 2030 and therefore saving an additional one million lives. Several governments of low- and middle-income countries have already committed to achieving the WHO target of at least 60% survival rate by 2030, however, there are many more countries still to commit and begin implementing the initiative.

To keep up the momentum of this initiative and to encourage further action, the 2020 World Cancer Congress joint session on childhood cancer aims to share knowledge and best practices in the following areas:

  • Raising awareness of the challenges in improving cancer services for children and young people around the world
  • Demonstrating how these are being met in some of the ‘focus countries’ at the forefront of implementation
  • Improving early detection and diagnosis
  • Improving access to quality treatment and care
  • Strengthening childhood cancer registration processes
  • Building strong workforces

‘We are excited to be hosting this session on the WHO Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer at the 2020 World Cancer Congress as it will give us the opportunity to help raise greater awareness of the current challenges we face in improving cancer services for children and young people around the world but to also demonstrate how some of these challenges are being met in some of the ‘focus countries’ at the forefront of implementation' Says, Susanne Wollaert, Executive Director, International Society of Paediatric Oncology (SIOP).

Discover more about the 2020 World Cancer Congress and access the preliminary programme here.

If you would like to find out more about childhood cancer, the signs and symptoms and access additional materials you can watch a series of videos available on our YouTube channel here.


[1] World Health Organization - https://www.who.int/cancer/childhood-cancer/en/

[2] International Agency for Research on cancer, GLOBOCAN, https://bit.ly/39vsZnr

[3] World Health Organization - https://www.who.int/cancer/childhood-cancer/en/

Last update: 
Saturday 15 February 2020
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