DOCTORSPEAK | CHILDHOOD CANCER EARLY DETECTION IS KEY

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DOCTORSPEAK | CHILDHOOD CANCER EARLY DETECTION IS KEY

Sunday, 18 February 2024 | Dr Gauri Kapoor

Childhood cancer, while rare (affecting about 50,000 children in India annually), requires a specialized, multidisciplinary approach to achieve both good cancer outcomes and a high quality of life. There are some misconceptions when it comes to cancers in children versus cancer in adults. It is important to understand that childhood cancer is unique and quite different in behaviour and response to treatment. Their cancers respond well to treatment and when diagnosed early are highly curable. Conditions like Acute Lymphoblastic leukaemia and lymphomas have excellent cure rates.

In the high income countries childhood cancer cure rates are excellent, to the tune of more than 80%. However, more than 80% of childhood cancer cases occur in low and middle-income countries where access to care is very variable and cure rates are as low as 20-40%.

Hence the WHO has launched a global initiative worldwide to improve cure rates to at least 60% worldwide and India is also aligned with it.

Early diagnosis and proper treatment are crucial for successful outcomes. This is why raising awareness among caregivers, healthcare workers, and the wider community is critical. There is a need to extend support to those suffering from childhood cancer, including their families and caregivers, and the survivors.

There is a lot of stigma attached to the word cancer and it is important to come forward to challenge this stigma and fight against it and give the childhood cancer survivors all the support they need in society so that they can fulfill their dreams.

Hence we need to identify the challenges associated with early diagnosis, and proper treatment and work together to find solutions so that all children may have access to optimum care.

(The writer is Dr Gauri Kapoor, Medical Director (Pediatric Hematology & Oncology),  Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute & Research Centre, Niti Bagh, Delhi)

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