Italian pediatric hospitals unite to treat Ukrainian cancer children

From February 24, with the outbreak of war, there are about five million Ukrainian children who have had to flee their homes. After experiencing the daily fears and threats of bombings, they had to deal with the drama of separation from their fathers and older brothers and with the constant anguish of not being able to see them again. The assistance of the Italian people to provide shelter, clothing, food, water, toys and books has been numerous. Even in times of war, children actually have the right to have a decent life and above all suitable for their age, by continuing to play and study. However, there are some children who face a different challenge: one on one Cancer. It cannot be the war that stops the cures and treatments they need and extinguishes the hope of being able to heal.


Because of the war, many children suffer severe pathologiesLike them oncologicalwill probably see their own discontinued treatments. With these, the possibility of defeating the disease and therefore also of surviving disappears. Twenty pediatric oncology centers that are part ofItalian Association of Pediatric Oncological Hematology (AIEOP) has taken responsibility 123 Ukrainian cancer patients to give them care and appropriate treatments.

The centers with the highest number of hospitalized patients belong to Irccs Bambino Gesù in Rome (28 children), Regina Margherita Hospital in Turin (21 children), San Gerardo Hospital and Monza and Brianza Foundation in Monza (13 children), at the IRCCS National Cancer Institute of Milan (9 children) and at the IRCCS Policlinico San Matteo in Pavia (9 children). Others are hospitalized at the IRCCS Gaslini in Genoa, at the Regional Center for Pediatric Onchematology in the Tuscany Region, at the Rossi Polyclinic in Verona, at the Spedali Civili in Brescia and at the Sant’Orsola Malpighi Clinic in Bologna.

Not only young patients but also parents, usually mothers, brothers and sisters, need medical and psychological treatment and assistance.


The Pediatric Oncology Unit inRegina Margherita Hospital in Turin welcome 60 Ukrainians among young patients, relatives and siblings who try to offer them the best possible care and assistance. Children and adolescents between 6 and 22 years, forced to suffer very painful treatments, they are far from home and from their loved ones. Given the effect of treatment cycles for oncological diseases and the situation from which children come has been established psycho-oncology unit Directed by Professor Franca Fagioli.

The Veronesi Foundation, which has already developed a protocol for cancer patients through the Gold for Kids project, also intends to support the funding of a group of psycho-oncologists to be allocated to the various centers in the AIEOP network.


That psychological work with children often trust drawing, used as therapeutic tool to work through the horrors and pains of war. At the Pediatric Oncology Unit of the Regina Margherita Hospital in Turin, patients with markers and pencils are invited to express their emotions and their emotions in relation to the difficult period they are facing. That psychological support has been extended to all family members, including siblings and at sisters who, in addition to fleeing Ukraine, constantly has to live with a sick family member, a very influential situation from a psychological point of view. That mothersThey are particularly grateful for the work and hospitality of Italian hospitals, and they need time to understand that they can trust doctors, nurses and psychologists to whom they can entrust their fears and concerns. The role of mutual aid it is not to be underestimated: for Ukrainian mothers, being able to confront each other, share stories and difficulties can help alleviate suffering.


To make families feel more integrated, Regina Margherita Hospital has created a program for literacy run by volunteers. In addition, patients and their families were found living in the homes of some citizens who decided to host them. Collaboration between physicians, psychologists and non-health professionals, such as teachers and educators, is crucial to the success of care,integration and treatment of young patients and their families.


Department of Oncology and PediatricsNational Cancer Institute of Milano, starting in March he has taken care of some children with cancer comes fromUkraine. The initial difficulties were not few. First, it was difficult to reconstruct patients’ medical history, often incomplete and fragmented, written in Cyrillic characters and lacking information about previous treatment plans with radiation. In addition, patients and their families were at high risk for Sars-CoV-2 infection, being vaccinated in very few cases. Psychological support was also initially difficult due to language barriers and of the complex adaptation to our use, customs and foods, which at times have caused some intestinal disorders.


Healthcare professionals at the National Cancer Institute quickly realized that in order to truly help young patients and their families, they needed to understand their need, their spiritual and religious needs, and better understand the history and geography of Ukraine. For example, there have been cases of tension between two Ukrainian families living in the same hospital room due to different ethnic groups. In addition, patients and families did not financial resources and required Help for need basic things like clothes, personal hygiene items and phone cards to communicate with distant families. To overcome language barriers courses were organized, and to communicate, the health care staff resorted to the use of graphs and involvement of interpret, not only professionals but also volunteers available at the hospital. All efforts have been coordinated both with other centers affiliated with the Italian Association of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology (AIEOP), which are facing similar situations, and with the region of Lombardy.

All efforts are aimed at a single goal: to provide these children and their families with protection, care, safety and, above all, a healthy environment to grow and live in.

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