New Delhi: It is estimated that approximately 40-50000 new cases of cancer occur in under-14 year of age in India.
Many of these are not diagnosed either because they have poor access to health care or because primary health care workers do not recognise signs and symptoms of pediatric malignancy, according to Dr. Gauri Kapoor of Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute & Research Centre (RGCIRC), Rohini, Delhi.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and RGCIRC has been raising awareness on early diagnosis of childhood cancer during the month.
Advances in survival of children with cancer over the past 30 years have been remarkable. Today, approximately 70 per cent of childhood cancers are potentially curable. Interestingly, this is not due to discovery of new drugs in treatment of childhood cancer. Rather, it has been achieved by the rational combination of the three important therapeutic modalities – chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy. This has been achieved through successive clinical trials comparing the best known therapy with new innovations in treatment.
In India, health care facilities are very diverse, ranging from centers having all state-of-the-art facilities and trained medical personnel to centers which do not have even basic infrastructure for diagnosis and treatment of childhood cancer.
“Like in any other developing country, late presentation, delays in diagnosis and tardy referral to appropriate treatment centers probably lower the cure rate. There is no doubt that the best chance for cure is the first chance; an unnecessary delay, misdiagnosis, incomplete surgery, or inadequate chemotherapy may adversely affect prognosis, irrespective of subsequent care,” emphasised Dr. Kapoor.
The average general practitioner or pediatrician will rarely see a child with cancer. Lack of familiarity with signs and symptoms of pediatric malignancy makes it easy to understand why the diagnosis may be delayed or missed.