Malignant disease in children in Croatia

The International Childhood Cancer Day is observed on February 15 at the initiative of Childhood Cancer International (CCI), the former International Organization of Parenting Children with Inflammatory Diseases (ICCCPO). In Croatia, based on the decision of the Croatian Parliament, the National Childhood Cancer Day has been observed on February 15 since 2006.

According to the latest data from the Croatian Cancer Registry, malignant diseases were diagnosed in 123 children (62 girls) aged 0-14 years and 175 children (90 girls) aged 0-19 years in 2014.

According to the latest data on deceased persons, 18 children (7 girls) aged 0-14 years and 30 children (8 girls) aged 0-19 years, respectively, died from malignant diseases in 2016.

Over the last ten years, among children aged 0-14 years, 112 were diagnosed with malignant disease and 21 died from it, and among children aged 0-19 years 167 were diagnosed with malignant disease and 35 died from it on average.

It is difficult to talk about cure in the context of malignant diseases;  five-year survival is commonly referred to as a measure of curing. Last month’s data from a large global observational CONCORD-3 study published in The Lancet shows that five-year childhood cancer survival rates in Croatia are above the European average: 95% for childhood lymphoma, 85% for acute lymphatic leukemias and 73% for brain tumours.

Croatian Cancer Registry data reveal that in 2014 the majority of children with malignancies (0-19-year-old) were diagnosed in the City of Zagreb  (49; 33 0-14-yr-olds), followed by the Split-Dalmatia county (16; 9 0-14-yr-olds) and Osjek-Baranja (11; 6 0-14-yr-olds), Brod-Posavina (11; 9 0-14-yr-olds), Zadar (10; 7 0-14-yr-olds) and Primorje-Gorski kotar (10; 7 0-14-yr-olds) county.

Overall data for Croatia show that among the total of 175 children with newly diagnosed malignancy in 2014, 63 were aged 0-4 yrs, 28  5-9 yrs, 32 10-14 yrs, and 52 15-19 yrs.

The most frequently diagnosed malignancies in children (0-19 yrs) were leukemias (41; 35 in 0-14-year-olds), followed by malignant brain and spinal cord tumours (27; 22 in 0-14-year-olds) and lymphomas (23; 12 in 0-14-year-olds).

Malignant diseases in childhood has social and medical consequences as they are traumatize and cause difficulties in adapting to a new life situation, affecting the family as the primary environment where a sick child should be given love and appropriate care.

In order to overcome the everyday difficulties they face when caring for their child, parents must be provided assistance: equal access to care and up-to-date treatment procedures, and, equally important, timely psychological support.

Providing quality care to children with malignant diseases is one of the priorities of the Croatian society. To plan and improve the quality of care, it is important to identify problems and needs of children with malignant diseases and their families. It is also necessary to raise public awareness and sensitivity to the problems of children with malignancies and their family members and provide support in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, according to which the child is entitled to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health and access to health care services.