Childhood cancer in India: From symptoms to role of nutrition, all you need to know

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Cancer it is one of the worst diseases, from which millions of people die every year around the world. But the diagnosis becomes much more alarming when the patient is a child. The Lancet Cancer Commission estimates in 2020 that about 13.7 million children will be diagnosed in the next 30 years. cancer and a staggering 11.1 million children will die from it if proper attention to health services and cancer treatment not paid.

What makes this forecast even more alarming is that more than 9 million deaths will occur in low- and middle-income countries like India. The main reasons are late diagnosis and unavailability of comprehensive and supportive therapy. What’s more, according to the study, 80 percent of children refuse treatment due to financial constraints, alternative medicine, or misinformation that cancer is incurable.

Childhood Cancer in India

About 50,000 children in India are diagnosed with cancer each year; that’s about one child every 11 minutes. Dr. Sukriti Gupta, Consultant for Pediatric Hemato-Oncology at Action Cancer Hospital, said: “Childhood cancer accounts for about 2-4 percent of the total number of cancers in the Indian population. ” In countries such as India, it is estimated that only 15–45 percent of children are cured of cancer, compared with more than 80 percent in high-income countries.

“The main problem is access to appropriate diagnostic and treatment facilities. There is a huge discrepancy in both detection and treatment. At least throughout childhood blood cancer, the cure rate exceeds 80-90 percent in developed countries. While in India, treatment, although curable, is not available to most children. Very few patients complete the entire course of treatment, and this is the main reason for rats with low cure rates, ”said Dr. Sarita Rani Jaiswal, consultant at the Bone Marrow Transplant and Hematology Department at Dharamshila Narayana Super Specialty Hospital.

Possible Signs and Symptoms of Cancer in Children

Listing a few common symptoms of cancer in children, Dr. Gupta said, “Initial symptoms may include fever, progressive drop in hemoglobin, petechial eruptions, etc.”

“Constant pain in one part of the body or bone, with or without an unusual lump or swelling, especially in abdomen, neck, chest, pelvis or armpits, easy bruising or bleeding, or sudden changes in vision can also be symptoms, ”added Dr. Jaiswal.

The most common childhood cancer is blood cancer. (Source: Getty Images / Thinkstock)

To reduce the risk, Dr. Gupta emphasized the need for early detection cancer. “Parents should seek medical attention even if they have mild symptoms or any unusual symptoms. These obvious symptoms may include the child’s pallor, any unusual swelling, rash, loss of appetite or weight loss, etc. “

Most common cancers in children

“The most common childhood cancer is blood cancer. Among them, acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most common disease, followed by high-grade lymphoma and myeloid leukemia, which can be detected under certain circumstances with certain genetic abnormalities, ”said Dr. Jaiswal.

Dr. Niti Raizada, Director of the Department of Medical Oncology and Hemato-Oncology at Fortis Hospital, Bangalore, explained that the type of cancer is highly dependent on age and history. “In infants or children under one year old, neuroblastoma is one of the most common cancers. In children between the ages of one and four, leukemias are very common. Other solid cancers include bone cancer, eye cancer, liver cancer, and kidney cancer. The age group in which cancer is most common is when the child grows up. Between the ages of 9 and 16, bone cancer is very common. ”

Childhood Cancer and the Role of Nutrition

Experts point out that proper nutrition “helps a child to tolerate chemotherapy and the consequences of malnutrition can create additional risks as they exacerbate weakness. ”

According to the Indian Journal of Cancer, 40 percent of children with cancer in India are already sick. depleted when diagnosing. In addition, it stresses that “children with cancer are at high risk of malnutrition, even though they may be receiving adequate nutrition at the time of diagnosis.”

Thus, it becomes important to pay attention to the nutrition of children to improve cancer treatment outcomes. And bridging this gap between cancer treatment and nutrition, with a focus on underprivileged children, is the Mumbai-based nonprofit Cuddles Foundation.

nutrition Paying attention to children’s nutrition is important to improve cancer treatment outcomes. (Source: Pixabay)

“This is achieved through formal partnerships with government and charitable cancer hospitals. We currently serve 35 hospitals in 12 states in India and are strategically located at key hubs in India’s vast geography, ”said Purnota Datta Bahl, Founder and CEO of the Cuddles Foundation. indianexpress.com

The FoodHeals Foundation program currently covers 35 government and charitable cancer hospitals in 12 states in India. He works in hospitals such as Tata Memorial Hospital (Mumbai), Sheri Kashmir Institute of Health Sciences (Srinagar), AIIMS (Delhi), Christian Medical College (Vellore), NRS Hospital (Calcutta), Dr. B. Barua Institute of Cancer (Guwahati ) and etc.

Impact of the nutrition program

During COVID-19 pandemic, the foundation has provided nutritional advice to more than 6,000 patients. “We found that despite treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, 80 percent of patients improved or maintained their nutritional status. In addition, 94 percent of the patients we consulted returned for a second visit or continued treatment, ”Bahl said.

She added that “the mean BMI z-score between first and last visits improved 16 percent, indicating an overall improvement in health.”

The way forward

According to Dr. Jaiswal, the way to reduce the risk of childhood leukemia, if it is not genetically predisposed, is to ensure the normal growth and development of the child in the natural environment. “If a child interacts with other children, he / she will be able to develop strong immunity and will be less prone to developing cancer or allergies. Therefore, in addition to nutrition, it is very important to have a normal growth environment for a child, which has been severely affected in the past few years by the Covid 19 pandemic.

Bahl added: “If we do not invest and strategically partner to ensure that children have access to timely diagnosis, comprehensive and supportive care, including nutrition during their treatment, and support families to complete their child’s care, we will not be able to improve our cure rate “.

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