At least 1,000 new paediatric cancer cases have come up for treatment in last one year after Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH) set up three new facilities in Guwahati, Visakhapatnam and Varanasi, in a bid to expand. By next year, Tata hospital is also slated to start cancer treatment at a hospital in Bulandpur, Punjab.
The new cancer facilities have encouraged more patients, especially children, to come up for treatment. While doctors in Tata hospital, which attracts 60,000-70,000 cancer patients annually, expected a drop in patients at its Parel-based centre after starting the three new facilities, the patients inflow here reportedly remained the same.
“This indicates newer patients are accessing treatment at the new centres, since it is closer to their homes,” Dr Shripad Banavali, director of academics in the hospital, said. He added that across India there are an estimated 40,000-50,000 new paediatric cancer cases, but only 20,000-30,000 children reach a major cancer care hospital for treatment. With more hospitals, he hopes, patients will reach out to centres of excellence closer to their homes.
In Varanasi’s Homi Bhabha Cancer hospital, which has 40 beds for children, 450 new paediatric cases have come up since January when the facility started. In Guwahati’s B Borooah Cancer Institute about 500 children and in Visakhapatnam’s Homi Bhabha Hospital over 200 children have come for cancer treatment in the last one year. Blood cancer remains the most common cancer (45 per cent) among children.
There are only 75-100 paediatric oncologists in India, with over 40 cancer care institutes catering to paediatric cancer treatment. “Paediatric cancers are highly curable, but diagnosis is often late. Gender bias forces several girls to drop out of treatment,” Banavali said.
Tata hospital plans to extend social and financial support system it provides in Mumbai to other cities where its centres are being set up. “In Tata hospital we managed to bring refusal rate of treatment to almost zero for children. This kind of support system will be replicated,” Shalini Jatia, secretary in Improving Paediatric Cancer Care and Treatment Foundation, said.-Indian Express