We first met Likem last year on the day care unit at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) in Ghana. After being diagnosed with a brain tumour, he was immediately referred to KBTH, but his family had to wait weeks to save enough money to pay for his surgery. While the doctors at KBTH were thankfully able to remove the tumour before any complications could arise, and while Likem continued to improve post-operation, his treatment was still an enormous financial strain on his family.
We have since learned that Likem’s parents decided to cease his treatment and to instead opt for a traditional spiritual healer. This decision is not an uncommon one, as spiritual healing is considered a legitimate and effective treatment method in many rural communities. It is also generally less costly than a hospital stay; many families simply cannot afford hospital treatment and its associated costs, such as travel and accommodation.
Moreover, many families decide to abandon treatment upon the child’s visible improvement, assuming that they have fully recovered before they actually have. Childhood cancer awareness and early detection are critical in increasing childhood cancer survival rates in these countries.
World Child Cancer works in low- and middle-income countries to educate families and doctors alike on how to recognise early warning signs of childhood cancer. Early detection often means early treatment, which can dramatically increase a child’s chances of survival.