Although there is a 70 to 90 per cent chance of curing paediatric cancer at an early stage, malnourishment among children come as a major hindrance to the child’s ability to survive.
Every year, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research sees around 150 new patients with paediatric cancer, and as many as 50 per cent of them are malnourished. This will mean that these children have lesser resistance to the disease and they have a poor recovery rate, assistant professor of medical oncology Biswajit Dubashi said.
Jipmer has been working with these patients to improve their eating habits and trying to encourage the families to improve their eating. But, the attempts are not successful often because the families are not used to such nutritious diets.
There have even been attempts to provide the children dietary supplements. But, there is no data on how successful this has been, he said.
Unfortunately, many of the treatments for cancer are long-term treatments, with some children undergoing treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Unless their bodies are able to handle these treatments, their chances of survival decrease. So far, there have been very few studies linking cancer and nutrition, he said.
In more developed countries, the rate of cure for paediatric cancer is 70 to 90 per cent. But, survival rate in even the best hospitals is around 50 to 60 per cent in India.
Another problem is with gender discrimination. In Jipmer itself, there have been many cases where parents are unwilling to provide long-term treatment to girl children. Social workers in the hospital try and ensure that there is a proper follow up and families are intimated whenever they have a check-up due. On Sunday, Jipmer along with Rotary Club Beach Town and Union Territory of Puducherry Child Protection Society formed a human chain on Beach Road to create awareness of paediatric cancer.
(This story has been facilitated under the One World-POSHAN fellowship grant)