New Zealand medical specialists review cancer cases

Eighteen Samoan children diagnosed with cancer were recently reviewed by a group of medical specialists from New Zealand.

Dr. Jane Skeen, who led the Pacific Working Group under the National Child Cancer Network, said the significance of the team's work is doing a review of the cancer patients and knowing that there are survivors (up to seven years off treatment) of children with cancer.

She said that not all children with cancer in Samoa have to die, and indicated that it is not the first time for her group to visit Samoa as they've been visiting since 2007.

“It has been an excellent trip and we have now had a longstanding relationship with the Paediatric team at Tupua Tamasese Meaole (TTM) Hospital and the Samoa Cancer Society and each visit builds on the success of prior visits.

“We were impressed by the dedicated and commitment of the Paediatric team and their ability to care for these children in Samoa,” she said.

Dr. Skeen said the objectives of their group include reviewing children with cancer on chemotherapy and to review children with cancer who have completed their chemotherapy.

Patients who were seen included paediatric patients with a potential malignancy or haematological problem as identified by the paediatric or surgical staff at Samoa's National Hospital, she added. 

As part of the process, there were discussions with Dr. Tito Kamu (TTM head of paediatrics) and Dr. Litara Esera to identify barriers to diagnosing, referring and treating children with cancer.

They also reviewed the case notes of children with potential cancer who were referred and to continue working with the paediatric team.

“And also reviewing the case notes of children with a potential cancer referred who never reached Starship; to continue to work with the Paediatric team (medical, including surgery, nursing, laboratory, radiology) on “caring for the children with cancer” – from early identification and referral to NZ if criteria met (ie: triaged as a good risk cancer as per the Pacific Child Cancer guidelines), completion of chemotherapy at TTM and palliative care for those children, not deemed to have a good risk cancer.

“It is also to provide training to the  nurses-newly identified – on the safe preparation and administration of chemotherapy; to continue to work with the Paediatric team (medical, nursing, pharmacy) around continuity of supply of chemotherapy drugs, teaching on the storage, safe preparation, administration of chemotherapy, and disposal of cytotoxic waste,” she added.

Dr. Skeen also said that they also aimed at teaching paediatric nursing, junior medical staff, medical students as requested.

“The proposed outcomes were: to improve the outcomes of children and adolescents with cancer in Samoa, by working in partnership with the Ministry of Health (MOH), clinical services (TTM Hospital) for children and adolescents, and their families (Samoa Cancer Society).

"It is also to enhance relationship with MOH and understanding of the process of the overseas referral scheme; safe and timely delivery of chemotherapy for children returning from Starship to Samoa.

“And to continue relationships with the Samoa Cancer Society; continue to raise awareness that children with cancer in Samoa do not all have to die untreated and early detection and referral important.”

The group is part of an organization that brings together health professionals, carers and stakeholder organisations to work collaboratively and provide leadership for service development across child cancer services in New Zealand. 

The PWG works with Pacific Island colleagues to develop, implement and monitor service delivery solutions that improve care for children with cancer in the Pacific Islands, which assists Pacific Island nations to build their own capacity and treat children as close to home as possible.  

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