The fight against childhood cancer in Yucatán is year-round work, but the actions and strategies are intensified and made more visible during February because every 15th is commemorated as the international day of said disease.
During the last two years, the task has not been easy because the governments and civil groups that care for children and young people with cancer have had to face the challenges caused by the pandemic, among them, the shortage of medicines, lack of economic resources and saturation of health services due to the coronavirus.
The struggle of the groups to not leave patients without attention has been titanic, as they have been in charge of obtaining the medicines that Insabi has stopped supplying to the hospitals on their own.
Francisco Pantoja Guillén, the pediatric oncologist at the “Dr. Agustín O’Horán” General Hospital, informed that six thousand new cases of childhood cancer are diagnosed each year at a national level, and it is estimated that in Yucatán between 150 and 200 cases are treated in the different hospitals of the State.
He specified that last year the hospital received 79 new patients, who are being treated; the annual average is between 60 and 70 cases. There are 100 active patients under treatment.
He indicated that the increase in the number of cases is directly related to the growth of the population and because nowadays children survive more years due to better health conditions.
He detailed that the most frequent types of cancer in the state are leukemias, with 50 percent of the cases, followed by tumors that appear in the nervous system, mainly in the brain, and those that affect the ganglia. In addition, osteosarcoma (in the bones) and retinoblastoma.
He assured that pediatric cancer is not a very frequent disease, since out of a sample of 100 people, 95 are adults. Many people think that infants cannot have it.
“The importance of this is that we think that a child cannot have cancer and that is what often delays the diagnosis; therefore, that is the main objective, to raise awareness among the general population, among those who are not doctors, and especially among parents,” he said.
Regarding the costs represented by the disease, the specialist highlighted that it depends on the type and stage of the disease, can be from thousands to millions of pesos, and can last from six months to three years, in the case of leukemias.
He emphasized that given the high costs that the disease represents, it is impossible for a middle-class family to cover them, so by working together with hospitals and civil groups it is possible to attend the children and provide them with adequate and timely treatment.
He added that in industrialized countries up to 85 percent of children with cancer can be cured, while in non-industrialized countries the figure drops to 60 or 65 percent in all types of cancer, despite the fact that many of them arrive in advanced stages.