Paediatric oncology deals with the diagnosis and the treatment of cancer in children. “Cancer is a death sentence” - is a common myth. In fact, up to 80% of the children can be 'COMPLETELY CURED' through modern treatments. While we celebrate these successes on World Cancer Awareness Day there still remains a significant urban-rural divide in India the urban regions are better equipped to combat childhood cancer, while rural hospitals are lagging behind with a much lower survival rate.
Childhood cancer accounts for as much as 5% of all the reported cases of cancer in India. Though an estimated 40,000-50,000 children are diagnosed every year, awareness about Paediatric Oncology remains quite low in the country. The World Cancer Day date invites us to help spread awareness about childhood cancer and view the services of the Paediatric Oncology department at Madurai Meenakshi Hospital and Research Centre (MMHRC).
Paediatric Oncology at MMHRC:
As we celebrate Cancer Day in India, it’s worth noting that MMHRC has been providing complete cancer care for over 27 years. What’s more, a dedicated Paediatric Oncology department comprising a 24 bed in-patient unit and a state-of-the-art day care unit was established in 2009. Our highly qualified team treats children with all haematological disorders (malignant and benign) and solid tumours including Leukaemia, Lymphoma and Brain tumours.
At MMHRC we are committed to providing treatment for all children suffering from cancer, regardless of their financial situation. The Camila Children’s Cancer Fund’s generous support helps pay for the treatment and medication of underprivileged children at MMHRC.
In addition to providing quality care, our Paediatric Oncology department is also actively involved in academics. We offer a 2-year fellowship program in Paediatric Haematology and Oncology in affiliation with the prestigious Tamil Nadu Dr MGR University. The department also runs a study for Hodgkin Lymphoma through an In-POG study group for academic research initiatives.
Treatment Strategies for Childhood Cancer at MMHRC:
Conventional treatment for cancer among children in India involved high doses of Conventional Radiotherapy. This treatment witnessed a survival rate of under 11% with high relapse rates, cardiac complications, and the appearance of malignant neoplasms. After decades’ worth of research, the use of improved therapies such as Standard Dose Radiotherapy, Combination Chemotherapy and Combined Modality Therapy significantly bettered survival rates.
Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy alone may not be sufficient to cure a proportion of children with cancer. Bone Marrow Transplant is the only chance of cure for certain cancers like Leukaemia, Lymphoma and benign blood diseases like Aplastic Anaemia, Thalassaemia, Immunodeficiency etc. MMHRC is the only centre in Southern Tamil Nadu with an established Bone Marrow Transplant facility and have completed 75 Bone Marrow Transplants so far. In the Bone Marrow transplant procedures performed, we have also had cases of Haploidentical Bone Marrow Transplant (Half Matched BMT).
Conventional treatments for cancer in children come at the cost of several long-term side effects due to radiation and damage to healthy tissue. In contrast, modern therapies at MMHRC use non-surgical treatments that target only the cancerous tissue. This ends up being more effective in combating cancer while avoiding the side effects of radiation therapy.
Through our World Cancer Day initiative, it’s worth mentioning that MMHRC is the first hospital in Tamil Nadu to use targeted radiotherapy treatments such as
The Way forward:
Even though modern forms of treatments are available today, many of the conventional therapies are still practiced in some parts of India. This is despite the continued efforts of various organizations spreading awareness about newer treatments on International Cancer Day.
MMHRC is the only hospital in South India with two Linear Accelerator Machines for targeted radiotherapy treatments. Additionally, we also have administered over 1,00,000 rounds of therapy and more than 5,000 patients have undergone surgical treatments for cancer at our facilities. While major strides have been made, there still exists a massive lack of awareness today. We have to create awareness about the high cure rates in children with cancer, so that all those children who are affected can be benefitted by the modern advancements in treating the cancer.
To work towards the World Cancer Day theme, we at MMHRC have been working tirelessly to achieve the same. Our efforts have helped us achieve success rates at par with international standards.