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Childhood cancer patient is on rise

Irin Sultana, mother of four-year aged Nishad, found that body of her son has paled suddenly and he couldn’t take any food in last three days. She brought her son at the Department of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology (DPHO) of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) getting advice from a local physician.

Physicians following diagnosis found that Nishad was being suffered with cancer, but it has been detected in primary stage and he would be cured fully through long treatment procedure.

Visiting in outdoor of Hematology and Oncology at BSMMU found huge crowds for receiving treatment, and on an average 35-40 children come every day for treatment.

BSMMU’s DPHO sources said a total of around 4-6 thousand children (new and old) who have been suffering cancer receive treatment in its indoor and outdoor.

In government and private levels, there is no separate specialized hospital for the cancer-suffered children.

So, BSMMU’s 28-bed Pediatric Oncology unit is the only resort, but the guardian of cancer-suffered child has to wait for long to get a bed at the unit for long treatment procedure. Many children died before getting bed and treatment, besides many don’t afford treatment cost even after allotted bed. Some children return home with prescription for not getting bed.

The sources said, approximately 5-6 thousand children are being affected with cancer in the country annually, of which 80 percent died without proper treatment. However, no accurate statistic of children suffering with cancer is in the country.

Pediatric Oncologists said children usually affected with two types of cancer –leukemia (hematological malignancy) and solid tumor. But, one third of the children are being affected with Lymph node and this type of cancer is curable with a treatment during six months to three years. Besides, different types of solid tumors are also curable with long treatment procedure. But, treatment of the both types of cancer is expensive.

Specialist physicians said if the cancer affected children can be given proper treatment in due time alongside adopting other necessary measures, then around 60 to 70 percent children can be cured fully. They said the treatment cost of a children suffering from cancer can vary from Taka 50,000 to 500,000 since there is a need for round the clock monitoring for cancer patients under the supervision and special arrangement by specialist physicians. Such facilities are almost absent in other places except the Capital.

The physicians said most of the guardians of the cancer affected children cannot bear the treatment cost due to their financial incapacity. They cannot even stay long in the Capital and thus continue the treatment of their children. As a result, most of these children die of cancer.

BSMMU’s Pediatric Oncology Department Chairman Prof M A Mannan said it is not possible to give treatment to such huge number of child cancer patients at the BSMMU with only 28 beds.

He also opined pediatric Oncology Departments should be in place in all the public and private hospitals. Although it was late, but, it is a matter of hope that steps have been taken to open pediatric Oncology units in eight government medical colleges side by side creating necessary posts for the doctors.

Prof Mannan said physicians should be given appointment against those posts without any delay to minimize the sufferings of child cancer patients and thus reduce the death rate.

Earlier in 2005, pediatric oncologist Prof M A Mannan along with some other specialist doctors of BSMMU, some influential members of Rotary Club of Jahangirnagar and Dhaka Metropolitan, and some elites of the society pledged hand in hand to continue treatment of child cancer patients through providing personal and institutional financial support to the pediatric Oncology ward at the BSMMU and such noble endeavor is still ongoing.

Since a lot of money is being spent to continue such costly treatment of cancer, such motivated individuals decided to form an institutional platform in January 2006. In continuation of this, Bangladesh Childhood Cancer Society was registered with the Social Welfare Department on January 24, 2007 as a non-profit organization.

The concerned of the Bangladesh Childhood Cancer Society said every year some 500 to 600 child cancer patients receive treatment from this child cancer treatment center at the BSMMU which is also the lone such cancer treatment center for children in the country.

Associate Professor of the Department of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology of BSMMU Chowdhury Yakub Jamal said not medicine, rather raising mass awareness is much more necessary to resist cancer. Side by side, it’s also necessary to take practical measures to survive from the clutch of cancer.