The bad news is that, over the last 25 years, the incidence of childhood cancer has increased more among Indian girls (by 44-76 per cent) compared to boys (12-27 per cent).
I have noticed that everyone wants to save the lives of adults with cancer but cancer-affected children are often neglected.
Children, especially girls are denied timely treatment. Poor families tend to cut corners and save costs, so they may not take the child for chemotherapy and hence deprive her of the chance of recovery.
Nearly 80 to 90 per cent of American and British children, who are diagnosed with cancer, survive whereas in India the survival rate is less than 40 per cent. This gap is because of the low level of awareness about children’s cancers, even in the medical fraternity. Most family physicians are unable to diagnose cancer early enough, and if they do, they give such a grim picture to the parents that they are depressed.
People need to realise that if detected early, childhood cancer can be cured in 95 per cent of cases. Sometimes, surgery alone is enough to cure the child. Moreover, children heal faster because they are more optimistic and the stress of surgery affects them less than adults.
Dr Sushmita Bhatnagar, Paediatric Cancer Surgeon attached to Wadia Children’s Hospital