Childhood cancer has better cure rates than adults: Experts

New Delhi, Feb 15 (IANS) Childhood cancers have much better cure rates than adults, said experts on Thursday calling the need for increasing early detection.

Every year, over 4 lakh children are diagnosed with cancer all over the world, of which approximately 50,000 are in India alone. Childhood cancer requires a specialised, multidisciplinary approach to achieve both good cancer outcomes and a high quality of life.

“Cure rates of cancers in children are almost 20-25 per cent higher than adults who develop the same cancer. They also tolerate the treatment much better with fewer side effects than adults,” Dr. Meet Kumar, Director & HOD-Hemato-Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant, Marengo Asia Hospitals, Faridabad, told IANS.

However, “childhood cancer comes with its own set of challenges”. “While we know that childhood cancer has better cure rates than adults, we still need to access more people, cure better considering long term effects of treatment and remove inequalities that exist across different strata of society,” added Dr Ruchira Misra, Senior Consultant, Pediatric Hematologic-Oncologist, NHSRCC Children’s Hospital.

The doctor said that approximately 4 per cent of all cancers occur in children.

Leukaemia or blood cancer is the most common cancer and occurs in approximately 30 per cent of the children.

Cute rates have improved and standard risk leukaemia has cure rates of about 80 per cent.

Further, Acute Lymphoblastic leukaemia and lymphomas also have excellent cure rates.

In the high income countries, childhood cancer cure rates are excellent, to the tune of more than 80 per cent. But, more than 80 per cent of childhood cancer cases occur in low and middle-income countries where access to care is very variable and cure rates are as low as 20-40 per cent.

Hence, the World Health Organization has set a goal to achieve at least 60 per cent survival for all children with cancer by 2030, and India is also aligned with it.

“It is important to understand that childhood cancer is unique and quite different in behaviour and response to treatment. Their cancers respond well to treatment and when diagnosed early are highly curable,” said Dr. Gauri Kapoor, Medical Director, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute & Research Centre.

Dr Intezar Mehdi, Director and Head of the Department, Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and BMT, HCG hospital, Bangalore, said India is “witnessing an increase in the number of paediatric cancer cases, predominantly among children under the age of 5. We believe that the underlying reason for this increase is the rising awareness followed by increased diagnosis”.

While the symptoms of paediatric cancer always get misunderstood for symptoms of common childhood illnesses because of their subtle nature, the doctor said they see some common symptoms that are being recognised at early stages.

“For example, in many cases children with Leukaemia are showing symptoms like frequent fevers followed by bleeding spots and enlargement of the child’s abdomen. Medical professionals are actively observing abdominal swelling as a potential indication of Wilms Tumour. In children under 5 years of age, eye abnormalities such as a white spot resembling cataract are also early signs of Ocular cancer,” Dr Intezar told IANS.

Dr Sunil Bhat, Vice-Chairman, Oncology Collegium, Narayana Health Group of Hospitals, stressed the importance of recognising early symptoms such as persistent fever, unexplained bruising, or unusual lumps.

The doctors emphasised the need for early diagnosis and proper treatment — crucial for successful outcomes, and asked parents to be vigilant of early signs.

By understanding these warning signs, we can facilitate early detection, appropriate staging and improved outcomes for young cancer patients.



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