Saturday, Oct 01, 2022
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medicine

The Shadow Of The Crab

A worrisome rise in the cases of childhood cancer—55,000 per year—pains hearts, draws tears

The Shadow Of The Crab
Sanjay Rawat
The Shadow Of The Crab
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Catching Them Young

  • 55,000 children diagnosed with cancer every year in India
  • Worldwide, the annual figure is 2 lakh; in the US, 12,500
  • Studies show a direct link between increased urbanisation and childhood cancer worldwide
  • Only 5 per cent of childhood cancer is hereditary; 95 per cent of the causes are external factors: viruses, pollution, radiation etc
  • In 2009, India had only 55 paediatric oncologists, 15 of them in Mumbai; even the rest are available only in cities.
  • Paediatric oncology not recognised as a speciality in over 250 medical colleges across the country
  • The commonest childhood cancer is leukaemia; lymphomas, brain tumours, tumours of bone and soft tissue rank next
  • Childhood cancer constitutes just four per cent of total cancer in India—the rising figures are a cause of concern, not excess alarm

***

Nitish loves a red toy car and thinks eating Maggi noodles is a treat. He smiles through heavy sedation to get his photograph taken. The 12-year-old has been battling bone cancer for over six years now. Last month, his father, a farmer from Bihar, was told by doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) that he should take his son home as the cancer had reached an incurable stage. Now, Nitish’s skeletal body must fight the last and most painful stage of the disease with four rounds of morphine injections every day. All his parents want is for him to die without pain. In his child’s mind, Nitish believes he will be fine, there will be a tomorrow.

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