More and more cancer-stricken children are completing their course of medical treatment, a study by the Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH) in Parel has shown.
The number of those quitting has reduced substantially, with now only one in approximately every 25 children abandoning the treatment i.e down from 20% to 4%. The study was conducted by doctors of paediatric oncology. “In 2009, the situation was exasperating... We began to strive to retain the children by coaxing their families to continue treatment. The dropout rate reduced to 10.4% in 2010 and now to 4% in 2013,” said Dr Shripad Banavali, head, paediatric oncology at TMH.
In 2013, of the 1,476 cancer-affected children registered with TMH and only 62 opted out of the treatment. Most families, doctors said, opted out in the first week of diagnosis itself. “If a family accepts that their child has cancer within the first two weeks of admission, they complete treatment. Those dropping out are always in the first or second week of diagnosis. They get their child hospitalised for tracing the root of the problem and then back out or fall prey to quackery.
They resort to bogus alternative medicines that promise sure-shot cures,” said Banavali. “Also, some families abandon treatment if they fear their child’s hands or legs will be amputated in case the tumour is proliferating in the limbs. They don’t understand that the child will die in a year or two for want of treatment. Moreover, we have excellent prosthetic limbs and eye transplants available to improve the functionality of a child who has lost a body part to cancer,” explained Banavali.
Doctors believe that gender bias creeps in while abandoning a child’s treatment. “Occurrence of blood cancers and solid tumours in both girls and boys is equal in proportion. Yet, once the families realise that their girls have cancers, they quit the treatment programme midway and take them back to their native place fearing repercussions of how will they deal with the cancer taboo when the girl reaches a marriageable age. But they fail to understand that a majority of cancers in children are curable and an affected child can go on to lead a normal life after one to three years of treatment,” said Dr Girish Chinnaswamy, associate professor, paediatric oncology, TMH.
Lower dropout a positive sign
In 2009, 1 in every 5 children quit cancer treatment midway
In 2013, 1 in every 25 children abandoned treatment
Since 2009, the number of children quitting treatment has reduced from 20% to 4%
In 2013, families of 62 children of the 1,476 admitted, dropped out of treatment; the reasons included gender bias, nature of tumour, low literacy of parents and it being difficult to find a place to stay in Mumbai