In spite of the the disproportionate occurrence of cancers between the wealthier and poorer nations in the world, modern literature and scientific research have rather unproblematic described cancer as a disease of development rather than underdevelopment. Paradoxically, more than 80 per cent of the reported childhood cases of cancer are in developing countries.
Burkitt’s lymphoma is the most common childhood cancer on the African continent, with tumors growing most rapidly. Yet, if chemotherapy treatment starts as early as possible, the treatment has good chances of being successful. The high mortality among children with Burkitt’s lymphoma, therefore, may indicate that caretakers, despite their uttered preferences for hospital treatment in the event of considered serious illness, delay hospital treatment.
In my anthropological research, I set out to investigate why families affected by Burkitt’s lymphoma in the North-West and West Region of Cameroon delay hospital treatment. My research is based on a seven-month fieldwork at the Burkitt’s lymphoma treatment ward at Banso Baptist Hospital, in the North-West Region of Cameroon.
I address the affected families’ therapy management strategies of Burkitt’s lymphoma in light of culturally meaningful disease explanations, as well as the socio-economic context of the disease. Economy, culture, climate dependent consequences and transportation problems are factors to be focused. On the basis of empirical findings from participant observation and interviews in- and outside the Burkitt’s lymphoma treatment ward, I illuminate a symptomatic ‘pattern of resort’, potentially increasing health risk and poor outcomes among the affected children.
My ultimate aim is to make it clear that the dissemination, as well as the medical outcome of Burkitt’s lymphoma are far more than narrow biomedical phenomena. The problems of late hospital arrivals and abandonment of treatment call for further social research.