EARLY DIAGNOSIS AND TIMELY TREATMENT IMPROVE CHILDHOOD CANCER SURVIVAL RATE BY MORE THAN 80%

In countries like ours, people generally think of cancer as an adult disease. Very few people have the idea that the number of childhood cancers is increasing not only globally but also in India. Here in India more than 50,000 children get cancer every year and now cancer is the 9the also the most common cause of death in children ages 5 to 15. So first knowing and believing that cancer can occur in the very early age of life is almost half the battle won.

With the main aim of spreading awareness, our hospital recently launched the campaign “80% of childhood cancers can be cured”. In the past five years, since the establishment of the hospital, we have treated more than 2700 children in our oncology OPD. And as for the hospital data, in these five years, more than 80% of the children with cancer treated in our hospital are now cancer-free. We can take many examples and among them the cases concerning Surya, Isha, Shreya and Piyush (all names changed) cannot be missed.

Surya, 2 years old, presented to our OPD complaining of a lump that could be felt in his lower abdomen. There were no other complaints. We were able to organize his exams which included a PET scan and surgical assessment and then posted him for an image guided biopsy and bone marrow aspiration and biopsy over the next 2 days. Within a week we were diagnosed with neuroblastoma and treatment was started. He was supervised by highly experienced medical staff with all types of treatments required. Today Surya is a victor, free from the dreaded disease.

When Sreya came to us, she was suffering from Ewing’s sarcoma, a type of tumor that arises from a certain type of cell in bone or soft tissue. After mega-prosthesis surgery and chemotherapy, she is now leading a normal life and preparing for the NEET exam.

Piyush was a patient with blood cancer, diagnosed at the age of 3 years. Now he is 8 and flourishing at school with the ambition to become a doctor as well. 5-year-old Isha was a victim of Bilateral Wilms’ Tumor, but timely treatment also cured her of the dreaded disease.

Among all these successful outcomes, the common thing we observed is early diagnosis and timely treatment. But what is an early diagnosis of childhood cancer? To understand this, we need to know the different types and symptoms of childhood cancer.

Types of Common Childhood Cancer:

The most common childhood cancer is Leukemia, cancer of the bone marrow and blood. They account for about 28% of all childhood cancers.

The other 4 most common childhood cancers are:

brain tumor: The second most common cancer in children is a brain tumor, which is seen in more than 20% of cases.

lymphoma, Lymphoma or cancer of the lymph nodes/glands is another common cancer in children.

Neuroblastoma: This is the most common cancer presenting as an abdominal mass in children under 5 years of age.

Williams’ tumor, Wilms tumor or nephroblastoma arises from the kidney and often presents as an abdominal lump in an otherwise healthy child.

Early Signs And Symptoms Of Cancer In Children:

  • Persistent unexplained weight loss
  • Headache with vomiting
  • Increased swelling or pain in joints accompanied by limping
  • Lumps in abdomen, neck or elsewhere
  • Development of a white appearance of the pupil or visual problems
  • Recurrent fever that is not caused by infections
  • Excessive bruising
  • Noticeable pallor or tiredness

If your child or a child you know has any of these persistent symptoms even after treatment, don’t sit around and waste time. Always remember that early diagnosis and timely treatment can make the child completely cancer free by giving him/her the chance to live to their true potential. So spread the awareness, because awareness is our greatest weapon for a brighter smile and a healthier future.

Dr. Ruchira Misra,
Senior consultant
Pediatric Hematology Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplantation
SRCC Children’s Hospital, operated by Narayana Health, Mumbai, India

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