According to a number of trusted sources, childhood Cancer is on the rise all over the world and these alarming statistics are showing no signs of slowing down. In terms of Indian children, the news is equally stark as we’ve recently learned that the survival rates are as low as 20 percent in some rural areas. Childhood cancer is particularly vicious in that our youngsters who haven’t experienced life are already having to deal with such a terrible disease. This article looks at a number of issues including why child cancer is on the rise and also we’ll look at the most common forms of this awful disease. Finally, we will discuss the way that healthcare professionals in Mumbai are fighting the good fight and we’ll conclude with some hopeful news.
Cancer in children – on the rise
Whilst it may be still true that adults are more likely to develop some form of cancer compared to children, healthcare specialists have started to look into the possibility that those figures are not painting an accurate picture. It has come to light that more children than before are being affected with a variety of cancers and because of potentially late diagnosis, their survival rates are alarmingly low. According to none other than the esteemed Tata Memorial Hospital, every year in India there are around 45,000 children who develop cancer every year. It is believed that child cancer can be easier to cure as opposed to adult cancer but that can only be the case when early diagnosis and quality treatment occurs.
One of the notable increases as far as childhood cancer strains are concerned is leukaemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. These are both very difficult for parents to identify and are aggressive cancers that can be hard to survive. On a worldwide level, success rates are fairly positive thanks to screening technology and early diagnosis. Sadly, Indian children do not fare so well especially when you take into consideration some of the rural locations that are far from decent hospitals and other medical facilities. Even when an early diagnosis takes place with successful treatment, the child patient can often be left with lifelong side-effects from both cancer and the subsequent treatment.
Along with leukaemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, brain cancer is one of the most common types of childhood cancer in India and around the world. These usually take the form of brain tumours and can be both aggressive and difficult to spot in children. Brain tumours are graded from 1 to 4 and this number is attributed to the behaviour and severity. If a child is diagnosed with a brain tumour in the range of grade 1 to 2, it is usually treatable and the chances of survival are fairly high. Grade 3 to 4 are typically malignant brain tumours and these are usually secondary cancers that started to develop in another part of the body. Primary brain tumours are the most dangerous type and these will have started in the brain.
Modern life to blame?
Whilst adult cancer tends to be connected to lifestyle habits and environmental issues, cancer in children is more likely to be a result of genetic makeup, However, there are a number of medical experts who are of the opinion that modern life and external features cannot be ruled out. Air pollution and pesticides are certainly an issue throughout India and even if these are only affecting the mother’s health, surely this must have some chance of being passed onto the child’s DNA makeup? Even something as seemingly harmless as a hairdryer or microwave in the home can increase the chances of humans developing cancer and why shouldn’t children be included in that risk calculation. These increasing figures are extremely worrying and whilst it is good news that India is progressing as far as technology and commerce are concerned, perhaps it is time to start taking measured steps to reduce the negative effects also?
Cancer disease in Mumbai
Back in 2012, there was an alarming trend that related to the number of children who refused cancer treatment. According to figures at the Tata Memorial Hospital, some 20% of children dropped out of cancer treatment. Annually, some 2000 children were admitted to the Tata Memorial Hospital for cancer treatment, but many didn’t complete their course of operations and subsequent procedures. The good news is that these figures have dropped to just 5% since 2012. Of course, in an ideal world, the figure would be zero percent because no child should miss out on life-saving cancer treatment whatever the reasons. Dr. A Puri, a notable oncology specialist, referred to a time when technology was not on the side of child cancer patients when he noted that ‘Earlier, children who suffered from cancer in the limbs had to be amputated’. He went on the explain that around 80-90% of these cases now could be cured without the need for amputation. Technology is playing its part in saving the lives of millions of children in both India and the rest of the world but there is a very long way to go before these figures can be brought down to as close to zero as possible.
Notable cancer hospitals in Mumbai
There are a number of excellent hospitals in Mumbai that specialise in cancer treatment for children and adults alike and here we look at 3 of the very best that are doing their level best for Indian families:
- The Tata Memorial Hospital – Quite rightfully seen and regarded as one of the best medical facilities in Asia for the treatment of child and adult cancer, the Tata Memorial Hospital continues to offer top quality cancer diagnosis and treatment in 2017 and beyond. Also known as the Tata Memorial Centre, it was established in 1941 and has since developed into a leading centre for oncology and cancer education/research. It is connected to the Advanced Centre for Treatment, Research and Education in Cancer (ACTREC) and specialises in treatment for leukaemia, one of the most prevalent types of child cancer. The Tata Memorial Hospital recognises that child cancer in India is now on the rise and invests heavily in education and subsequent treatment. Recognising that early detection saves both lives and money, the Tata Memorial Hospital focusses on this area of cancer treatment with the hope that the previous figures will eventually be reduced.
- Asian Cancer Institute – Formerly known as the Asian Institute of Oncology, the Asian Cancer Institute is one of the leading cancer hospitals not only in Mumbai but in the whole world. It was established in 2002 and was the result of a long project involving some of the best oncologists in the region. In 2013, the Asian Cancer Institute expanded its facilities to include in-patient capability and subsequently moved the whole operation to Mumbai. Dealing with specialist cancer issues and also general research and after care, the Asian Cancer Institute is a credit to Mumbai and India. As well as improving education about childhood cancer, the Asian Cancer Institute works with both private and government cancer experts.
- Holy Family Hospital – This famous cancer hospital prides itself in offering first class support and after care to the citizens of Mumbai. As the names suggest, family comes first and this has been the main objectives since it was established in the 1950’s. Their cancer detection unit is extremely high-tech and offers chemotherapy for a number of cancer strains. Childhood cancer is one of the main areas of surgery at the Holy Family Hospital and along with other cancer hospitals in Mumbai, they are doing what they can to defeat this common enemy. The Department of Oncology also specialises in treating liver, pancreas and bile tract cancer issues. What sets the Holy Family Hospital apart from similar establishments is the sterling aftercare services on offer to patients. Counselling before and after cancer treatment is a vital process especially as far as childhood cancer is concerned.
- Holy Spirit Hospital – This multispecialty hospital is another example of the very high standard that is maintained amongst healthcare establishments in Mumbai today. With over 200 expert doctors and formed over 50 years ago, the Holy Spirit Hospital has more than 300 beds and manages more than 2 million patients on an annual basis. This Charitable Trust Hospital is open 24 hours a day and offers cancer support and surgical services to families and their children. They recognise that childhood cancer is on the rise and are doing their utmost to fight against this trend with the help of their excellent facilities
Not all bad news
Although the rising number of childhood cancer cases in India and the rest of the world is bad news for families everywhere, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. The number of fatalities is dropping and that is thanks to improving education and technology. As we have mentioned before, leukaemia was the biggest cancer threat for children and now that has been replaced by brain cancer. This switch has taken place because there have been so many advances in the fight against leukaemia. Brain cancer cases haven’t increased by a huge proportion and it is likely that more will now be done to battle against this strain of cancer. Thanks to the likes of Dr. Andrew Kung, childhood cancer is finally being given the attention that it deserves. On a worldwide level, some 90% of childhood cancer cases are being cured, now if only we can achieve a similar rate here in India.
So we’ve looked at how childhood cancer in India is being tackled and mentioned some notable cancer hospitals in Mumbai. Although it is always a terribly sad topic, it is reassuring to learn that childhood cancer is being focussed on by medical professionals here in India. It may be on the rise but surely once technology and the ability to recognise these potentially deadly symptoms advance sufficiently, we will start to see these figures shrink. They say that children are the future so surely it is now time for the government to invest even more heavily in the research of childhood cancer than ever before.
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