One of the things that I enjoy most about these Cameroonian trips is follow-up visits to children in their homes in the bush. It is fun searching for a child with only the village name as his or her address and when we do find a child we are usually welcomed by the whole village.
Our follow-up rate to one year from the beginning of treatment is 96%, an amazing achievement for sub Saharan Africa. It is essential to know outcomes so that we can further improve treatment.
The highlight of our last 48 hours at Mutengene was a visit to the home of a child treated 5 and a half years ago for Burkitt’s lymphoma. Celine, now a young woman aged 14 and a half is happy and healthy. Her mother welcomed us (Prof Hesseling, nurse Patience Nfor and myself) with great warmth and stated that Celine had suffered no real illness since her admission to Mutengene Baptist hospital nearly 6 years ago. However it rapidly became clear that her mother had no idea of the diagnosis (cancer) or its gravity. Celine had been brought to the hospital by her father and it appears that he had not told his wife about the diagnosis or chemotherapy – despite lengthy counselling from our team. We explained very carefully what had happened and she replied, “I thank God, I thank God”.
We have treated over 1000 children with Burkitt’s lymphoma since our treatment programme began in 2005. This home visit was part of a “long term” follow-up study launched this year and already well on the way to completion. We aim to contact this year all those who are still living. This study will provide invaluable information about the effectiveness of our treatment protocol and any long term sequelae of chemotherapy.