One of the greatest fears of the 21st century is the rising possibility of getting cancer. And what people fear the most is that age is no bar for this disease that affects even little children. When children as young as five years are diagnosed with the terminal disease, it is heartbreaking for every member of the family.
Studies reveal that a shocking 1.6 to 4.8% of all cancers in India are seen in children below 15 years of age. This scary statistic translates to about 40,000 children falling victim to cancer each year. Experts even opine that the alarming rise of the dreaded disease could be linked to environmental pollution and depletion of the ozone layer. Rapid industrialisation and technological advancements are said to have contributed to the increase of children afflicted with cancer.
Though statistics seem grim, there now seems to be a ray of hope for children diagnosed with brain cancer. An accurate diagnosis in the early stages of the disease and providing personalised treatment have helped in the complete recovery of children suffering from cancers such as medulloblastoma and other types of brain tumours.
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With more than 120 kinds of brain tumours, an accurate diagnosis is of utmost importance. The intensity of each individual’s cancer is studied through molecular studies and profiled. Tumours are no longer seen as a single entity, but as multiple sub groups with distinct patterns of gene mutation and expression and distinct clinical behaviour. Accordingly, treatment methods are tailored to suit each individual rather than a common therapy for all. The treatment generally includes a combination of neurosurgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and blood and marrow transplantation.
The current developments in the medical scenario translate to a hopeful outcome for children suffering from brain cancers. Research has yielded specialised drugs, with fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapy drugs, which target specific parts of cancer cells. Technological advances such as improvement of neuroimaging and improved surgical techniques (such as stereotactic surgery, intraoperative mapping and imaging) are making treatment of brain cancers more effective. Another positive development has been that of precision-guided radiotherapy that ensures decrease in radiation to normal tissues. The duration of treatment also differs among individuals. Hence the frequency and duration are altered according to the individual’s requirements.
The recovery rate of Indian children battling brain cancer has increased to about 70%. Oncologists are keen on creating awareness about the symptoms of the disease as well as assuring general public regarding efficacy of the new methods of treatment.
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