Childhood Cancer On The Rise In India


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The recent rise in childhood cancer cases in India indicates that children in India are vulnerable to this disease too. According to a recent cover page report in the Weekly newsmagazine Outlook, 55,000 children are diagnosed with cancer every year.  While there is no doubt that better diagnosis is one of the reasons as to why the cancer figures seem high, but it is also true that, the global pattern of increase in cancer rates, seem to be reflecting in the Indian milieu too.

Why is there a spurt in cancer cases? How come, one did not hear of cancer so often, a few years back? While, there is no defining theory, it has been observed that with urbanization and our changing lifestyle patterns, there has been a spurt in cancer cases worldwide.

Of course, one must not negate the fact that diagnostic services have also vastly improved, and hence one of the reasons, why numbers seem so much more nowadays. But having said so, there is reason for concern, since as compared to the US (where only 12,500 new cancer cases are detected every year), the numbers for India, which stand at 55,000 yearly, are much more.  Not only are the numbers more, we are woefully less on trained personnel, in terms of oncologists, to tackle the problem. According to the report published, in 2009 there were only 55 pediatric oncologists, with a large percentage of them available in just Mumbai. For the country the size of India, yes, the oncologist figures do seem very less. It does sound worrying, when doctors are in agreement with the increase in childhood cancer rates. Dr. R.N. Ghosh, Pediatric Oncologist in Kolkata/Calcutta told Outlook,

Of the 85 cancer patients in my hospital, 40 are kids. Indication enough of the sheer numbers of children afflicted with the disease.

What is the commonest form of childhood cancer in India? Leukemia tops the list, followed by tumors in the brain, bone and soft tissue.  Readers will be surprised to know that hereditary is only 5% of the cause for childhood cancer, while the rest 95% of the cases, it is environmental factors like radiation, pollution etc.

This certainly makes depressive reading. Is there no silver lining at all? Oh yes, there is, and that is the higher rate of curability (to the tune of about 75%) in case of childhood cancer as compared to adult cancer.  So, while one feels a little more cheerful on reading this bit of news, one also hopes, that the number of pediatric oncologists in India will increase too.










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