Ten-year-old Nilesh Tripathi (name changed), a Bhopal resident, had high fever and joint pain for more than a week in January. After testing negative for diseases such as malaria, chikungunia and dengue, he was diagnosed with blood cancer.
Nilesh is one of the 45,000 cases of paediatric cancer detected in India every year.
On the eve of International Childhood Cancer Day, doctors highlighted the need for more paediatric oncologists and better awareness for timely diagnosis. While the cure rates in western countries are as high as 80% to 90%, in India it varies from 20% to 70%.
Jyoti Ghatala, 16, was treated for germ cell tumour from April 2010 till September 2011 with six cycles of chemotherapy and other medication. The Nalasopara resident dropped out of school in Class 9. She had to rely on help from charity organisations, as her mother works as a domestic help. Jyoti has now recovered and plans to appear for SSC exams soon.
“More than 30% of our population is under 18. But there are hardly five to seven full-fledged paediatric cancer facilities in India. The treatment is very expensive as well, ” said Dr Shripad Banavali, head of paediatric oncology , Tata Memorial Hospital, Parel.
“Most children, who are brought to specialists in time, will be long term survivors and can lead healthy lives. But they have to complete the treatment, which goes on for six to seven months,” said Dr Shweta Bansal, paediatric oncologist , SL Raheja Hospital.