Treatment refusal and abandonment are major causes of treatment failure for children with cancer in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), like Guatemala. This study identified risk factors for and described the intervention that decreased abandonment.Methods:
This was a retrospective study of Guatemalan children (0–18 years) with cancer treated at the Unidad Nacional de Oncología Pediátrica (UNOP), 2001–2008, using the Pediatric Oncology Network Database. Treatment refusal was a failure to begin treatment and treatment abandonment was a lapse of 4 weeks or longer in treatment. The impact of medicina integral, a multidisciplinary psychosocial intervention team at UNOP was evaluated. Cox proportional hazards analysis identified the effect of demographic and clinical factors on abandonment. Kaplan–Meier analysis estimated the survival.Results:
Of 1,789 patients, 21% refused or abandoned treatment. Abandonment decreased from 27% in 2001 to 7% in 2008 following the implementation of medicina integral. Factors associated with increased risk of refusal and abandonment: greater distance to the centre (P < 0.001), younger age (P = 0.017) and earlier year of diagnosis (P < 0.001). Indigenous race/ethnicity (P = 0.002) was associated with increased risk of abandonment alone. Abandonment correlated with decreased overall survival: 0.57 ± 0.02 (survival ± standard error) for those who completed therapy versus 0.06 ± 0.02 for those who abandoned treatment (P < 0.001) at 8.3 years.Conclusion:
This study identified distance, age, year of diagnosis and indigenous race/ethnicity as risk factors for abandonment. A multidisciplinary intervention reduced abandonment and can be replicated in other LMICs.