CHENNAI: 23,658 children in India are affected by cancer every year, out of which 6,209 suffer from Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL-a cancer of the blood and bone marrow). In Tamil Nadu, 1290 ALL cases have been reported out of which 363 cases are Paediatric ALL, said Padmashree awardee and Chairperson, Cancer Institute of India, Dr V Shanta, at a conference held by Tamil Nadu Pondicherry Pediatric Oncology Group to discuss challenges and issues faced by children battling cancer on Saturday.
"Every child to be afflicted with cancer should get curative health care. The survival rate is 60-75 per cent today; 6 decades ago it was 0," she said.
Themed “CREATE THE FUTURE” the Paediatric Haemato Oncology conference saw delegates from India and Southeast Asia deliberate on the need for educating paedeatritions in enabling them in early detection of pediatric cancer with advanced screening procedures, help reduce its occurrence and possibly even bridge the gender gap in treatment.
Girls respond to treatment better than boys, biologically with all cancer therapies. However, in all cancer centers the number of girl children being brought for treatment is far lower than the number of boys out of the total 15,000 children diagnosed each year, experts noted.
"The ratio of afflicted cancer patients would be in the ratio of 1.4:1 (boys: girls); but the hospital registries would indicate a ratio of 3:1," said Dr Shripad Banavali, Head of Medical and Paediatric Hematology at Tata Memorial Centre Mumbai.
“Paediatric constitutes 2.3 percent of all cancers. The incidence of cancer is lesser in India when compared to other developing and developed nations. The predominance of boys in cancer cases is universal and is increasingly being noticed in metropolitan cities vis a vis rural areas. Whether it is due to inaccurate diagnosis or incomplete registration it is hard to tell. Leukaemia and other related disorders account for more than 50 percent of all childhood cancer while Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) accounts for 24 percent of these cases," Dr Shanta said.
Amidst landmark changes in pediatric cancer treatment delivery such as conceptual changes in therapeutic care involving multi-disciplinary team, protocol based therapy and adequate supportive care; the disparity in access to quality healthcare between boys and girls were some of the key issues discussed at the conference.
“Childhood cancers are curable and the girl child should also be given a chance. We have noticed that abandonment rates are high in girls possibly because of the high cost of treatment or even the parents concern about the impact of the treatment on the child’s appearance or even physiology which is feared to impact the child’s future prospects, especially marriage. Communities, philanthropists, Organisations and the government need to collectively come forward to educate and lower the social stigma associated with cancer in the girl child.” said Dr Revathi Raj, Paediatric Haematologist, Apollo Hospitals and the Organizing Secretary of the Conference.