Andhra Pradesh

Childhood cancers can be cured by timely diagnosis, say experts

Cure rates are low in India due to several challenges

Cancer in children constitutes 5.5 % of the total cancer cases in India, according to data available with the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR).

While cure rates for common childhood cancers like lymphoma and leukaemia are over 80% in the developed world, in India they are abysmally low at around 30% due to challenges like inadequate access to timely and quality healthcare and exorbitant treatment costs in the private sector.

A majority of childhood cancer cases are being diagnosed between five and 14 years of age, that too at fairly advanced stages. These cancers are completely curable, if diagnosed early and treated in time, said Dr. Nirmalya Deo Pradhan, paediatric oncologist at Homi Bhabha Cancer Hospital and Research Centre (HBCH & RC), on the occasion of International Childhood Cancer Day on Saturday.

Around 90% of children with cancer are being given free treatment at HBCH & RC with funds for Women and Children’s Cancer, provided by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India.

“The symptoms are different for different cancers, but children suffering from cancer have poor growth, poor weight gain and decreased appetite. One must get their children evaluated on seeing these symptoms,” said Dr. Pradhan.

Calling upon the public to make a difference by sponsoring a child’s treatment or enabling their access to supportive care services, Dr. D. Raghunatha Rao, director of HBCH & RC, said: “For every child who dies of cancer, the world loses several decades of life. Families that are left behind also experience tremendous agony. Let us act now before another child loses his or her life to childhood cancer.”

Lack of access

He underlined the need for diagnosis and treatment services to be more accessible to families all over the country. Currently, a number of the major cancer hospitals or those that have the requisite facilities are concentrated in big cities. Families who have a child suffering from cancer often need to travel long distances to access treatment. This only compounds the distress and anxiety.

Genetic susceptibility and specific environmental exposure play a major role in cancer incidence, said Dr. Maruti Prasad Upputuri, consultant paediatrician, KIMS ICON Hospital.

The symptoms differ with each type of cancer and are generally non-specific. Prolonged fever, weight loss, night sweats, painless swellings (especially lymph nodes), early morning headache with vomiting, abdominal mass, unexplained pains (especially bone pains) may be an indication of cancer.

Most general paediatricians rarely encounter children with cancer and they might miss the early symptoms. Whenever a child has unusual course of common child illness, one might consider malignancy, Dr. Maruti Prasad said.

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Printable version | Jul 4, 2020 12:30:54 PM |

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