It is heartbreaking to see children suffering from cancer. Side effects of treatments, severe symptoms and long hospital stays are taking their childhood away. They are fighting on and modern medicine can do a lot to help them. But scientists from the University of York and Hull York Medical School believe that hospital stays of children with cancer could be made shorter using an innovative blood test.
Current cancer treatments commonly cause fever. This is because they compromise the immune system, making it weaker and more susceptible to various infections. They can be very serious and cannot be overlooked, which is why children with cancer who are experiencing fever are usually kept in hospitals for up to a week while antibiotics and other treatments are administered. These are to reduce the risk of a serious infection like sepsis. But can these hospital stays be reduced so that children could spend more time at home?
A new study, involving 28 children with cancer, revealed that a blood test with a new protocol could help identify patients who can safely go home. This blood test diagnoses serious infections by looking at levels of the biomarker procalcitonin in the blood. Essentially, if the levels of procalcitonin are low, children can stop their antibiotics course and go home. This study revealed that this new approach could cut the average hospital stay to just two days. Some children with cancer who are experiencing fever can leave the hospital in as little as 8 hours. And they can do it safely, because the risk of a serious infection is very low.
Children with cancer stay in hospitals a lot. This is just the nature of the disease and its treatment. Sadly, this means that many of them grow up with many of their memories formed in hospitals. It is necessary to reduce that impact as much as possible. Furthermore, while infections in childhood cancer are scary, antibiotics present a further toll on the body and should be used only when necessary. These tests and protocols could help achieve that.
Dr. Bob Phillips, one of the authors of the study, said: “Our study shows that procalcitonin blood tests could make a big difference to children who don’t have a serious infection, allowing them to go home earlier to be with their families, cutting unnecessary treatment with antibiotics and reducing an already intense mental and physical toll.”
Around 400,000 children and adolescents ages 19 and under are diagnosed with cancer every year. Treatments are harsh and they take a significant toll on a small person’s body and soul. This disease is life-consuming and scientists are doing everything they can to cure it. At the same time, better treatment methods and protocols could at least cut down the hospital stays so that children could enjoy their childhood better.
Source: University of York
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