More awareness, knowledge of advancements in treatment needed, say experts

The incidence of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), a cancer of white blood cells occurring among children, has been on the rise for the past two decades, according to experts at the Cancer Institute.

In Tamil Nadu, 800 new cases of ALL were diagnosed in 2010. Of these, 30-40 per cent were reported in Chennai. The number of cases has doubled now compared to the 1980s. “The increase could perhaps be due to better diagnosis facilities,” said T.G. Sagar, director and dean of the Cancer Institute.

The institute is organising an international symposium over the weekend (January 11 and 12) on their premises to create awareness about the common cancers occurring among children and also share knowledge with those in the field of medical oncology and paediatrics.

Pointing out that the survival rate of patients was 70 per cent in India compared to the west where the survival rate was close to 90 per cent, Dr. Sagar said this could be due to differences in biological factors.

“Several children here are malnourished. The peak incidence of ALL is among children aged between two and five years. In Chennai, there are also cases of children aged above 10,” he said.

This conference will help us learn about the survival rates of patients in various institutions and also gain knowledge of medical experience from international experts, he added.

Venkatraman, assistant professor at the medical oncology department, said that the symptoms of ALL such as fever and bleeding are similar to common diseases. If the symptoms persist for a long time, paediatricians should refer patients for a blood test.

As it is one of the curable cancers, there is a need to create awareness about early diagnosis and treatment, he said.

About 150 delegates will participate in the conference and discuss ways to manage ALL as well as advancements in treatment.

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