Bengaluru: The International Childhood Cancer Day (ICCD) is observed on February 15 every year with the aim of creating awareness. The experts advise parents on the occasion that having cancer is not the end of the world.
"My message to the public is to have an awareness that having cancer is not the end of the world. It's just a phase that will pass and together we can be successful in making sure that children with cancer can have a normal life, free of disease," Dr. Ashish Dixit, Consultant - Haematology, Haemato Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplantation, Manipal Hospital Old Airport Road said.
Dixit said that, "Most of the cancers in children are curable. Prompt recognition of cancer and the early start of the therapy holds the key to a successful outcome. One of the most common cancers in children is acute leukaemia."
Dr Vinay Munikoty Venkatesh, Consultant - Paediatric Haematology Oncology and BMT, Manipal Hospitals Yeshwanthpur said that every year nearly 4 lakh children and adolescents are diagnosed with cancer. In India alone, more than 75,000 new childhood cancers are diagnosed each year. Cure rates of childhood cancers is close to 85 per cent if diagnosed timely.
A robust system of "referral to pediatric oncology" centres is lacking when a child is suspected of cancer in the community. Raising the awareness in the community and amongst general physicians is the need of the hour, he explains.
Treatment advancements in childhood cancers over years has not just resulted in excellent cure rates but also has minimized the side effect profile of these treatments. Cellular therapies (CAR-T cell therapy, gene therapy etc) and immunotherapy have shown path-breaking clinical results in cancers previously considered incurable! We need to invest more in childhood cancer research to further improve, Venkatesh said.
Dr Niti Krishna Raizada, Senior Director Medical - Oncology and Hemato-Oncology, Fortis Hospitals, Bengaluru said, childhood cancers refer to a group of diseases that include many different types of cancers, such as leukaemia, brain and spinal cord tumours, neuroblastoma, Wilms tumour, and others.
Each type of childhood cancer is unique and requires specific treatment and care. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), approximately 500 children in Bengaluru are diagnosed with cancer each year.
"Fatigue, discomfort, edoema, and behavioural changes are just a few of the symptoms. Due to the child's developing body and symptoms that may resemble those of other disorders, diagnosis and therapy can be difficult," Raizada said.
Raizada added that many families in India struggle to afford the cost of treatment, which can run into lakhs of rupees, leading to financial ruin and severe stress. Additionally, the lack of trained paediatric oncologists and adequate treatment facilities in many parts of India results in late diagnosis and inadequate care, leading to lower survival rates for children with cancer.