About three to five percent of the total cancer cases in India comprise of childhood cancer. Experts have expressed their concern over the low cure rate due to lack of available data.
"The disturbing reality is that the cure rate of pediatric cancer is almost 80 percent in the developed countries. When we see the data from major cancer centres, it actually can match up to the Western standard but this data is not enough," Haemato-Oncologist Vivek Agarwala said at an awareness programme conducted by Narayana Superspecialty Hospital, Howrah.
‘Childhood cancer is curable if proper treatment is given to the children. Parents need to look for symptoms like poor growth, poor weight gain and decreased appetite. One must get their children evaluated on seeing these symptoms.’
According to the Indian Council for Medical Research, cancer in children constitutes approximately 3-5 percent of the total cancer cases in India.
Agarwala said a large portion of the incidence of childhood cancer in society is still not addressed.
Also, a large section who don't have access to premier institutes are often diagnosed late due to financial crunch and that is why the overall treatment rate in India is low.
"Probably, the government and society at large are not considering it a big problem as it is just around 5 percent. We are always campaigning for breast and cervical cancers," Agarwala said.
"We must remember this 5 percent of cancer is majorly curable if given proper treatment," he said.
Leukaemia and retinoblastoma (a form of cancer where children have a white eye) are the two common forms of cancer in children.
Talking about awareness and symptoms that parents need to watch out for, he said: "Symptoms are different for different cancers, but children who have cancer have poor growth, poor weight gain and decreased appetite. One must get their children evaluated on seeing these symptoms".
On International Childhood Cancer Day, the hospital organised a 'Sit and Draw competition' with pediatric patients and rewarded the winner.