The International Day of Childhood Cancer is celebrated worldwide on 15 February every year. The key aims are to raise awareness for children and adolescents about childhood cancer and to help cancer survivors and their families.
The word “childhood cancer” is most widely used to designate cancer that develops before the age of 18 years in children.
According to the World Health Organisation, a greater understanding of the concerns and issues facing childhood cancer and survivors still remains a key concern today. It also highlights the need for all children with cancer to have better access to treatment and care.
In conversation with HealthWire, Dr Itesh Khatwani, D.M (Medical Oncology), Consultant, Narayana Multispeciality Hospital Ahmedabad says “Cancer is curable if detected early and that awareness should be spread.”
Here is an excerpt of the interview:
What are the types of childhood cancers?
There are more than a dozen types of childhood cancers and a hundred distinct subtypes.
More than half the cancers in children are caused by blood cancers, brain cancers, and neuroblastomas.
Most children with cancer have leukaemia, which is known as a bone marrow disorder when unwanted white cells or lymphoblasts are produced in the body instead of creating blood.
There are two types of leukaemia: acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) or acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), both of which can be easily treated if diagnosed on time.
What are the impacts of the lockdown on childhood cancer patients?
The children and their parents were not able to move from their home to their hospital due to the lockdown. It has become very difficult to receive medication and compassionate care. It was not possible for new patients with suspected cancer to enter the proper centre to begin treatment. There was an interruption in therapy for patients with continuing care.
Several of the hospitals were either entirely converted into Covid-19 hospitals or part of their hospital premises, and for Covid 19 services, staff were used. As a consequence, there was a restricted supply of staff and space for the care of children with cancer.
Are childhood cancers curable?
If diagnosed well and in time, childhood cancers, although frightening, are highly treatable. In nature, almost 80 per cent of childhood cancers are curable. If cases are diagnosed early, children may go on to live a cancer-free, easier, longer life. The lack of knowledge about signs and symptoms is one of the most common reasons why a lot of kids are not diagnosed well.
Knowing that children’s cancers are not often treated like adult cancers is significant.
Not only should children survive, but they should also succeed. Cancer needs to be diagnosed early and treated in dedicated paediatric oncology units to do this, where the team is focused and trained to respond to the needs of children. Most people are not aware that this information exists and that many childhood cancers are effectively treated.
The type of treatment obtained by a child with cancer depends on the type of cancer and how advanced it is. Chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, immunotherapy, and bone marrow transplantation are common therapies.
In developed countries, the majority of children with cancer live and more than half die. No cancer registries are available to provide us with reliable data, children are either not diagnosed or are diagnosed too late, and access to information and life-saving care is limited.
However, with the availability of dedicated Paediatric Cancer Units that provide outstanding quality of treatment, the situation is becoming more promising.
Children’s cancers are curable and are no less critical than the fight against malaria, dengue, malnutrition, and other causes of death in children.