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Sweden accused of '1800s' child cancer care

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Sweden accused of '1800s' child cancer care
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07:20 CET+01:00
A number of leading Swedish health professionals have spoken out about the lack of qualified staff in hospitals to help children suffering with cancer, with one arguing that levels of care are akin to those in the country during the nineteenth century.
Sweden was ranked the lowest in Scandinavia in terms of child cancer survivor rate in a major study published in the Lancet last year. Overall in Europe Sweden was ranked in eleventh position. 
 
The issue was discussed at a recent annual general meeting of the National Child Cancer Centre (Barncancercentrum). 
 
"We are deeply concerned and we came out from the meeting knowing there is a need for a change. I think we have been silent for too long," Karin Mellgren from the centre in western Sweden told Dagens Nyheter.
 
"Something must be done. Now," she added.
 
Other medical experts across Sweden have said they are not especially surprised with the country's poor ranking.
 
At present there are six specialist child cancer centres in Sweden. 
 
Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported that the lack of child cancer specialists is a significant problem.
 
It stated that there are 40 child oncologists in Sweden, with eight set to retire in the next five years.
 
Experts have stated 60 child oncologists are needed to cope with the demands for care. However, just 15 are currently in training.
 
The medical experts who spoke with the newspaper all agreed that the lack of qualified staff and not enough hospital beds were the biggest concerns going forward.
 
A senior child oncologist, speaking on grounds of anonymity, said the situation is getting worse.
 
"It's never been this bad and yet it gets worse every year. Sometimes it feels like we are practising 1800s levels of care."
 
For the medical study in the Lancet journal, experts analysed 59,579 child cancer cases from 29 countries across Europe.
 
In the study it found that survival of child cancer is generally at its lowest in eastern Europe, where the rate of survival is between 10 and 20 percent lower than in western Europe.
 
"Other countries have caught up with us especially those in the southern part of Europe. The situation is very challenging for paediatric cancer care and also for large parts of the qualified in-patient care in paediatric hospitals in Sweden," said Svante Norgen, director of the Astrid Lingren children's hospital, to Sveriges Radio. 
 
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