childhood cancer80 per cent of children abandon treatment due to financial constraints, alternative medicine or the misinformation that cancer is incurable. (File photo)

Cancer is one of the most dreaded diseases, with millions of people succumbing to it every year worldwide. But, the diagnosis becomes much more worrying when the patient is a child. In a grave prediction, the Lancet Oncology Commission in 2020 estimated that in the next 30 years, around 13.7 million children will be diagnosed with cancer and a staggering 11.1 million children would succumb to it if adequate attention to health care services and cancer treatment is not paid.

What makes this prediction much more worrying is that over 9 million deaths will take place in low and middle-income countries like India. Delayed diagnosis and inaccessibility to holistic and supportive care are the key reasons. Moreover, according to the research, 80 per cent of children abandon treatment due to financial constraints, alternative medicine, or misinformation that cancer is incurable.

Childhood cancer in India

Approximately 50,000 children are diagnosed with cancer every year in India; that’s about one child every 11 minutes. Dr Sukriti Gupta, consultant, paediatric hemato oncology, Action Cancer Hospital said, “Childhood cancer accounts for around 2-4 per cent of overall cancer in Indian population.” In countries like India, only an estimated 15-45 per cent of children are cured of cancer as compared to more than 80 per cent in high-income countries.

“Major problem lies in the access to proper diagnostic and treatment facilities. There is a huge discrepancy in detection as well as treatment. At least in all childhood blood cancers, the cure rate is in excess of 80-90 per cent in developed countries. Whereas in India, the treatment despite being curable, is not affordable for the majority of children. Very few patients take the entire treatment, and this is the major reason for the lower cure rat,” Dr Sarita Rani Jaiswal, consultant, department of bone marrow transplantation and hematology, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital said.