The pandemic has had a “substantial” impact on childhood cancer care worldwide, with a marked rise in the number of patients abandoning treatment altogether, new research showed on March 4.

Covid-19 has placed huge pressure on hospitals and healthcare systems, particularly in developing nations, as most medical facilities have been inundated with Covid-19 patients.

A global assessment of the impact of Covid-19 on paediatric cancer care showed that care was affected at 78 per cent of hospitals.

Almost half (43 per cent) reported diagnosing fewer new cases than expected, while 34 per cent reported a rise in the number of patients who stopped treatment.

Perhaps most worryingly, seven per cent of hospitals surveyed reported having to close their paediatric cancer units entirely at some stage during the pandemic.

Eight-seven per cent were in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

“Hospitals in LMICs were under strain even before the pandemic, with fewer resources and less access to care for children with cancer,” said Daniel Moreira, managing director of the US’ St Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“So our results seem to reflect the relative strength of different healthcare systems around the world.”

Among the more than 200 hospitals contacted in 79 countries for the survey, 79 per cent reported a reduction in child cancer surgery.

More than half noted shortages in blood products and 57 per cent reported shortages of chemotherapy treatment.

The pandemic also diverted resources such as funding and bed base from childhood cancer care, according the survey results published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal.

Thirty-two per cent of hospitals surveyed reported decreased financial support, while 19 per cent reported a reduction in available beds.