THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD Areeba from Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, used to suffer from severe leg pain and when it got worse, her family took her to India’s premier hospital–AIIMS in Delhi. She was diagnosed with bone cancer. Areeba’s treatment started immediately. Areeba is lucky as many children with cancer in India don’t get diagnosed or treated in time. Every year, an estimated 50,000 new cases of children with cancer occur in the country.
Areeba’s treatment started, but her family could not find a place to stay in Delhi.
That is when the family approached St. Jude’s childcare centre for help. The NGO not only provided shelter but also helped with counselling to keep up Areeba’s fight against cancer. The childhood cancer survivor grew in confidence at the centre. She is all grown up now and has completed a computer course, and aspires to work in the field of technology someday.
Cancer in children is curable
Cancer can occur at any age and in any part of the body. Children, too, are susceptible. In a large country like India, cases of children with cancer are rare, and therefore difficult to detect. However, there are higher chances of survival if it is diagnosed and treated early, like Areeba.
Common cancer treatments include surgery, stem cell transplant, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation therapy. The paediatric oncology team diagnoses the specific cancer type and sets the protocol for effective treatment based on the stage of cancer. Access to effective diagnosis, treatment, essential medicines, and supportive care is critical for cure and survival.
An estimated 70-90% of cases of children with cancer are completely curable. However, only about 20,000 patients out of 50,000 in India get access to proper treatment because of a massive gaps in the healthcare system. With the right medical treatment, infection-free living conditions, and proper nourishment cancer among children can be cured.
But lack of access to cancer care is a serious issue, especially for people living in smaller towns and villages as nearly 95% of cancer care facilities are in urban areas in India.
Long road to treatment and care
In India, up to 40% of children with cancer are malnourished at diagnosis, which makes survival a challenge. Underprivileged families from rural India bring their children diagnosed with cancer to large cities for treatment, but these families can hardly bear the high cost of treatment or provide safe and hygienic accommodation for children undergoing cancer treatment. Often they end up staying on the footpath or living in make-shift tents next to the hospital. Such experiences often force parents to abandon treatment and return to their village, increasing the likelihood of the child succumbing to cancer.
Non-profit organizations-run cancer support and care centres play a vital role and help families in need bridge the accessibility critical support. Through financial assistance, good nutrition, hygienic, protective, nurturing environment, these centres give the children the best chance of fighting and surviving cancer.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and here we highlight the efforts of our NGO partners that provide care and support to children having cancer and stand by their families.
Cuddles Foundation is a one of a kind non-profit organisation that provides holistic nutrition to underprivileged children fighting cancer. Its FoodHeals Program provides proper nutrition customised to a child’s medical condition to complete their treatment successfully. Cuddles Foundation is based in Mumbai and provides trained nutritionists to government and charity cancer hospitals, shares food and supplements with patients and families and support caregivers with the knowledge to make the right food choices.
Cuddles Foundation is nourishing children in 30+ government and charity cancer hospitals across 20 cities and works with 250+ paediatric oncologists.
You can help Cuddles Foundation reach more children affected by cancer and who need care by donating here.
The St. Jude India Childcare Centres was founded to ensure that every child having cancer has access to the best possible treatment available, and stands a fighting chance at a healthy, happy life. Its mission is to provide a clean, safe and cost-free environment and holistic care to children affected by the illness and support their parents. A team of 140 staff members at St. Jude provides cost-free and holistic care to patients and their families during the child’s treatment.
In its 33 centres across India, St. Jude provides families in need with free housing, nutrition, free transportation to the hospitals and counselling. It also offers art-based therapy, music therapy and yoga for the patients, along with skill training for the families for income generation. The organization has worked with 11,180 children so far.
You can help various initiatives of St. Jude India Childcare Centres by donating here.
CanKids KidsCan works across the spectrum of childhood cancer care through their signature programme YANA –You are Not Alone. They provide holistic support to a child with cancer and the family, from detection, through diagnosis, treatment, and thereafter to improve the survival chances. Their efforts are directed at enabling a child’s right to health and improving the quality of life during cancer treatment and afterwards. CanKids is on a mission to secure the right to Health, Education, Childhood, Pain-free and Palliative Care and the Right to be Heard for children with cancer.
CanKids works in partnership with 113 Cancer centres in 62 cities and 27 States of India. They also run 10 Home Away From Homes (HAH), 2 CanShala, and 1 – 20 bedded Palliative Care Centre.
You can help CanKids KidsCan reach more and more children through its programmes by donating here.
This is a 50-year-old non-profit organisation that helps fight cancer through its distinctive philosophy of ‘Total Management of Cancer’. It works with the medical fraternity, to raise awareness, early detection, support for treatment, guidance and counselling, rehabilitation, research studies and advocacy. The primary aim of CPAA is to provide adequately for cancer patients who do not have access or cannot afford cancer treatment.
An expert in cancer management, CPAA now mentors other health care organisations across India, based on this holistic philosophy through its presence in Mumbai, New Delhi and Pune.
You can help CPAA by donating here
This is a non-profit organisation established by former India cricketer Yuvraj Singh who is a cancer survivor. The foundation works extensively in the healthcare sector with a focus on issues related to cancer. Its vision is to eradicate the stigma associated with cancer in India and change public perception that cancer is preventable and curable.
It aims to be a leader in cancer awareness, prevention and control in India. The foundation also helps with frequent screenings and early detection of cancer and provides support to cancer patients and their families.
You can associate yourself with this youth icon’s initiative by donating here.
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Samar is a Marcoms specialist and freelance writer. She has a master’s in marketing and creativity from ESCP Business School. She is an avid traveller and likes to write about technology, travel, wildlife and sustainability.