New Delhi: 15th Feb is marked as International childhood blood cancer day to raise awareness about childhood cancer, and to express support for children and adolescents with cancer, the survivors, and their families.
As per GLOBOCAN 2020 report, over 20,000 new cases of childhood blood cancer are diagnosed every year in India, of which over 14,000 of those cases is leukemia. Leukemias (>95% of which are acute) constitute the most common diagnostic group of childhood cancers worldwide, and in India.
About 50000 cases of childhood (0-14 age group) cancer are diagnosed in India of which blood cancer accounts for over half of them making blood cancer as the most common type of cancer in children!
Blood cancer is also one of the leading causes of death amongst children
Blood Cancer refers to the malignancies of the blood, bone marrow, or lymph nodes that affect normal blood cell production or function. Leukemia is the most common type of blood cancer that affects children and teens (0-19 years), and one of the leading causes of death.
Three types of Leukemia in children
The common type Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), Acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and in rare cases chronic myeloid leukemia (CML).
“Children with Down’s syndrome are 20 times more likely to develop lymphoblastic leukemia and 150 times more likely to develop Myeloid Leukemia”, says Dr. Sunil Bhat, Director and Clinical Lead, Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Blood & Marrow Transplantation, Mazumdar Shaw Cancer Centre, Narayana Health City, Bengaluru.
But there is hope!
Treatment of Childhood Blood Cancer:
Misinformation and lack of awareness about blood cancer and its types are the biggest challenges observed today amongst the Indian population. What most people are unaware of is that blood cancer can be treated, and a patient can get a second chance at life via a stem cell transplant, which is often the best treatment option, according to experts.
The mainstay of treatment for childhood blood cancer or Leukemia is chemotherapy, although, in high-risk cases or in children who cannot be treated with chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant is their only chance at survival.
A blood stem cell transplant gives a new ray of hope to many children, as in the case of Maheer, a 15-year old boy from Ahmedabad who was diagnosed with blood cancer. Post consulting a doctor the family got to know about blood stem cell transplant process and how Maheer could survive this health condition with the help of blood stem cells from an unrelated donor. He was able to find his matching blood stem cell donor, Dr. Sita through DKMS, Sita hails from Germany. Post the stem cell transplant, Maheer got his second chance at life and is leading a normal life today just like any other child of his age.
For a stem cell transplant, blood stem cells from a healthy matching donor are required. Only about 30% of the patients in need of a blood stem cell transplant can find a sibling match. The rest 70% depend on finding a matching unrelated donor. When blood stem cells are collected from a donor, they are infused into the patient through a transplant process which then moves through the bloodstream and settles in the bone marrow. These new blood stem cells begin to increase in numbers and produce red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets, resulting in the replacement of the patient’s diseased cells.
Children being the future of a country, it is our duty to support them and we can together help by registering as potential blood stem cell donors. Becoming a blood stem cell donor is easy. To do so, interested citizens aged 18-50 and in overall good health can register with DKMS BMST Foundation India at dkms-bmst.org/register by giving their cheek swab samples.
With a country of over 1.35 billion population and rising incidences of blood cancer and other blood disorders like thalassemia and aplastic anemia, it increases the need for more people of Indian ethnicity to register as potential blood stem cell donors and help save a life!
To know more: dkms-bmst.org
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