1st International Symposium in Pediatric and Adolescent Oncology in Ethiopia

1st International Symposium in Pediatric and Adolescent Oncology in Ethiopia, Jan 18th – 21st, 2011, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Ethiopia has a population of more than 80 million people and more than 45% of its people are less than the age of 14 years. Based upon these figures, it is estimated that there are between 5000 to 6000 new cases of pediatric cancer annually. Although precise outcome figures for children and adolescents with cancer are lacking, it is estimated that survival is less than 10%. A large number of children with cancer are referred to the Black Lion Hospital – some 400 to 600 cases annually. Therefore, this four day symposium on pediatric and adolescent cancer, organized in partnership with the Addis Ababa University, Black Lion Hospital, Georgetown University Hospital and INCTR USA, was considered the first step towards developing a comprehensive pediatric oncology program in Ethiopia. Partial support for the symposium and the nursing workshop was provided by the Mathiwos Wondu-YeEthiopia Cancer Society and INCTR USA.

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The meeting was attended by pediatricians, medical residents and interns, nurses and pharmacists from Ethiopia. The meeting program was delivered by an international faculty representing many countries, including other low and middle income countries that have faced similar challenges confronting Ethiopia when establishing pediatric cancer care programs. Representatives of INCTR’s Clinical Research Program, Oncology Nursing Program, Palliative Access Program and Pediatric Oncology Program were part of the international faculty.

Emphasis was given to curable pediatric cancers such as leukemias, lymphomas, retinoblastoma, Wilms tumor, osteosarcoma and rhabdomyosarcoma. Aspects of supportive care and ways to improve supportive care practices were presented and discussed and an entire session was devoted to palliative care as this aspect of care of the child or adolescent with cancer has not been well developed in Ethiopia. Basic data management was discussed to encourage the development of an evidence base about the numbers of pediatric cancer seen, the types of treatment delivered and patient outcomes.

The Ethiopian participants were given an opportunity to present the realities of treating children with cancer in their country and to discuss the many challenges that they face. Panel discussions were held following each session such that there was much interaction among speakers, other faculty members and participants with special attention given to developing appropriate strategies to employ in the context of Ethiopia – given the lack of resources for managing cancer and for providing effective supportive and palliative care. This symposium has generated a great deal of enthusiasm such that a clear strategy for how to further develop and create a center of excellence for pediatric cancer in Ethiopia has emerged.

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Educational Workshop for Nurses

During the first two days of the symposium, an educational workshop for Ethiopian nurses caring for pediatric cancer patients was held. This educational workshop was organized with support from two members of the committee developing INCTR’s Oncology Nursing Program, Dr. Julia Challinor and Dr. Savitri Carlson-Singh. The content of this workshop included common childhood cancers seen in Ethiopia, chemotherapy and its expected side effects and nursing care for children and adolescents undergoing cancer treatment. In preparation for the workshop, Dr. Julia Challinor and Dr. Savitri Carlson-Singh, and Cecelia Rose (CR) English - all nurses with experience in working in countries with limited resources and in oncology - held discussions with the nurses on the two pediatric units at Black Lion Hospital that provide treatment for children with cancer to discuss present nursing care practices. They were joined later in the day by Kelly Bergfeld and Lauren Tytler, both experienced pediatric oncology nurses for a session with the Black Lion Hospital nurses to determine the strengths and challenges of caring for children with cancer at the hospital and to determine the nurses’ needs for training. Kelly, Lauren and CR conducted the workshop for nurses on January 18th at the hospital. Twenty-nine nurses from around the country, including the cities of Addis Ababa, Mek’ele, Awasa, and Jimma participated in the workshop. The first day of the workshop was followed by the nursing faculty working with the nurses on the wards. And, all of the Ethiopian nurses attended the final two days of the symposium to learn more about supportive and palliative care.

Click here to view the presentations given by the faculty

Pediatric cancer in Ethiopia along with a more in-depth coverage of this symposium and the educational workshop for nurses will be highlighted in the Winter 2011 edition of Network.

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