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A recent study found that rural residence and certain tumor types, such as Hodgkin lymphoma, are among the leading causes of delayed cancer diagnosis in children.

Delayed cancer diagnosis in children is a significant global health problem. Moreover, in its early stages, cancer symptoms are non-specific. This risk of delayed diagnosis is exceptionally high in developing nations due to limited access to healthcare. However, it appears that the nature of the tumor also contributes to the delay in diagnosis. 

A retrospective cross-sectional study published in the journal BMC Cancer explored the various reasons for delays in cancer diagnosis in developing nations.

Delayed Diagnosis of Hodgkin Lymphoma: A Significant Issue

Studies show that, due to delayed diagnosis and poor care, economically deprived children have lower chances of survival. Thus, for example, 80% of children diagnosed with cancer in Ethiopia die from their conditions. In order to enhance cancer survival rates, it is vital to identify the causes of delayed cancer diagnosis.

For the study, researchers gathered data from different cancer hospitals in Ethiopia. They analyzed the data of pediatric cancer patients from January 1, 2019, to December 31, 2021. They identified several significant factors resulting in delayed cancer diagnosis, including rural residence, tumor type, absence of health insurance, no referral, and absence of comorbidities. The risk of delayed cancer diagnosis for those living in rural areas was twice that of those living in urban areas. The absence of health insurance also doubled the risk of delayed cancer diagnosis. However, the study found that specific kinds of cancers were more likely to be diagnosed late, notably Hodgkin lymphoma, which had a delayed diagnosis 9.4 times greater relative to that of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Wilms tumor and retinoblastoma were also highly likely to be diagnosed late.

The Bottom Line

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This study found that the urban–rural divide and poor awareness among healthcare workers of certain types of cancer are significant causes of delayed childhood cancer diagnosis. The study found that cancer diagnosis was delayed in 44% of cases. Studies from Argentina and Brazil showed this rate to be 63.5% and 55%, respectively. 


Yimenu Gardie, Mulugeta Wassie, Seid Wodajo, Giza, M., Ayalew, M., Yihenew Sewale, Feleke, Z., & Melkamu Tilahun Dessie. (2023). Delay in diagnosis and associated factors among children with cancer admitted at pediatric oncology ward, University of Gondar comprehensive specialized hospital, Ethiopia: a retrospective cross-sectional study. BMC Cancer, 23(1), .https://doi.org/10.1186/s12885-023-10873-8