Prevalence and predictors of abandonment of therapy among children with cancer in El Salvador



Abandonment of therapy is one of the most common causes of treatment failure among children with cancer in low-income countries. Our objectives were to describe the prevalence and predictors of abandonment among such children with cancer in El Salvador. We analyzed data on patients younger than 16 years, diagnosed with any malignancy between January 2001 and December 2003 at the Benjamin Bloom National Children's Hospital, San Salvador. Among 612 patients, 353 were male (58%); the median age at diagnosis was 5.1 years; 59% of patients were diagnosed with leukemia/lymphoma, 28% with solid tumors and 13% with brain tumors. The prevalence of abandonment was 13%. Median time to abandonment was 2.0 (range 0–36) months. In univariate analyses, paternal illiteracy [odds ratio (OR) 3.8, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.0–7.2; p = 0.001]; maternal illiteracy (OR = 5.1, 95% CI 2.5–10; p < 0.0001); increasing number of household members (OR = 1.2, 95% CI 1.1–1.3; p = 0.004); and low monthly household income (OR per $100 = 0.59, 95% CI 0.45–0.75; p < 0.0001) all significantly increased the risk of abandonment, whereas travel time to hospital did not. In multiple regression analyses, low monthly income and increased number of people in the household were independently predictive of abandonment. In conclusion, in El Salvador, despite the provision of free treatment, socioeconomic variables significantly predict increased risk of abandonment of therapy. Understanding the pathways through which socioeconomic status affects abandonment may allow the design of effective interventions. © 2009 UICC