“Cancer kills more people in poor countries than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.”

– The Economist, March 2014

With five-year survival as low as 30%, Burkitt’s Lymphoma (BL) is also the most fatal in this region. This aggressive and disfiguring faciospinal tumor doubles in size overnight accentuating the need to seek and receive early treatment. However, in many African settings, care-seeking for childhood cancers is low due to inadequate community awareness of cancer warning signs and the perception that cancer is an inevitable death sentence.

Even when BL patients and their families seek help, they are met with barriers uncommon in developed countries. BLFA’s programs help them overcome these barriers, including:

Diagnosis

It often takes weeks to receive a diagnosis in underserved countries versus a few hours to a few days in western countries. Due to outdated equipment, the quality of the diagnosis often lacks complete accuracy. Time-to-diagnosis and quality of diagnosis are two key factors that can be the difference between life and death. BLFA’s Pathology Improvement Project (PIP) has improved both of these measures for children suffering with cancer.

Treatment

BL is highly curable with modern chemotherapy. There is a greater than 90% survival rate in the USA. These drugs are largely unavailable in most African settings. The current treatment protocol results in less than 50% survival in East Africa. Care for BL patients in these settings is often limited to palliative efforts toward symptom relief and pain reduction. Without effective treatment, BL is 100% fatal. Our funding helps ensure that drugs are available for our young patients.

Transportation

Many families must travel hours by bus to come to a clinic, yet most don’t even have bus fare to take the trip. BLFA’s programs ensure that all families have access to the funds for their transportation needs.

Housing

Cancer treatment is not completed in one day. It often involves multiple, multi-day hospital visits. Families traveling from afar often have nowhere to stay overnight nor the resources to pay for accommodations. At times, they simply camp out on the hospital grounds. Our International Cancer Care and Research Excellence (iCCARE) program in Tanzania has helped families by providing them a group home to support their basic needs while their children are in treatment.

Communication

Communication is vitally important to completing any treatment plan, regardless of the child’s medical condition. Many of these families know little about the disease and as a result often feel there is no hope and simply stop treatment after the first round. BLFA’s partners have established communication improvements such as appointment reminders, educational videos about the disease and treatment, and 24/7 direct access to an emergency hotline.

BLFA is committed to reducing the barriers for children with cancer and their families. Through financial support, medical expertise, diagnostic equipment, and collaborative resource-sharing, the BLFA works with partners in East Africa that specifically address these important needs to complete successful treatment.

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