Tuesday 30 March 2010

Childhood Cancer in India: An Introduction

Globally, it is estimated that 250,000 children under the age of 15 years develop cancer every year. Around 50,000 (20% or 1/5th) of these children are in India.
Both the above estimates are based on the incidence of childhood cancer being 125 to 150 per million per year.

We do not know, how many of these 50,000 children with cancer in India get diagnosed. Of those who are diagnosed, we do not know how many of them seek treatment. A significant proportion of those who do seek treatment, either refuse treatment when it is offered or abandon treatment within the first few weeks. Based on information derived from published studies and presentations at scientific meets we know that treatment refusal and abandonment rates vary from 17 to 62% depending on the type of cancer and treatment center.
Ref – Arora et al, Pediatric Blood Cancer, Dec 2007

Currently, nearly 8 out of 10 children with cancer get cured in resource-rich countries like those in North American and Europe. If we exclude those who refuse or abandon treatment, comparable outcomes for specific cancers are achieved in India in those treated at tertiary institutes like the Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai. However, at a population level, the five-year overall survival for all childhood cancers combined has been reported to be 37-40% from Bangalore and Chennai. This cancer registry data is a much more accurate representation of cancer outcomes across India although as it is from urban areas, it is also likely to be an over-estimate of the true survival.
Ref – Arora et al, Indian Journal of Cancer, Oct-Dec 2009

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