Why are brain tumour cases in children in India on the rise?
By: Jasmine Marfatia
Published On: July 19, 2018
This article covers all you need to know about pediatric brain tumors, and how to cope with the financial implications of it.
A pressing health concern in our country today is the rise in the brain tumors in children. Statistics in an article by The Hindu reveals that every year 40,000-50,000 new brain tumor cases are reported in India, of which 20% are cases of brain tumor in children. This amounts to over 2,500 children each year.
The most commonly found brain tumor is medulloblastoma. The same article also states that if these cases were to be detected early and correctly, 90% of the children would be cured. Unfortunately, that is not the case, as brain tumors in children is a growing cause of mortality today.
Only 1 out of 10 children in India have access to complete medical assistance.
One would think that with immense progress in science in medical research, the statistics wouldn’t be so disturbing. The fact is that tumors in children are generally considered more controllable and easily curable (in most cases).
The problem however, arises when the diseases are not detected early enough. Parents sometimes don’t know the right places to take their children to, and in some cases, they may even get diagnosed wrongly.
Wrongful medication or half baked diagnosis’ may further contribute to the ill health of children, even if the child’s tumor were at an easily curable stage.
What is brain tumor?
A brain tumor is a mass or lump like abnormal growth in the brain that can either be malignant or benign. A malignant tumor is one that grows fast, is cancerous, and can spread at a rapid pace.
A benign tumor on the other hand is one that is non-cancerous. Malignant brain tumors are what we also know as brain cancer. Brain tumors are categorized into two:
Primary tumors: ones that form and originate from the brain cells itself
Secondary tumors: ones that may have started somewhere else, but eventually spread to the brain
What puts you at risk for brain tumor?
Every day we are bombarded with information that point towards the things that are potential causes of cancer. From mobile phones and microwaves to food items, many things that we rely on in our daily life can evidently be causes of it.
Now we may not be able to do away with a lot of these things, but we can be more mindful about our exposure to some of the high risk factors.
Read on to understand what causes cancer:
1: Genetics or a family history of brain tumor
In certain cases, tumors (cancerous and non-cancerous) may run in the family due to similar habits that present high exposure to tumor/ cancer causing elements like smoking and obesity among others.
Though tumors themselves are is not transferred from one generation to the next, one may inherit an abnormal gene that can cause the growth of a tumor.
2: Improper diet, especially excess use of artificial sweeteners
Improper diet is also considered as one the most important causes. Eating well is an important part of reducing the risk of developing tumors, and consequently cancer. Researchers advise that it is best to stick to a diet of fresh and whole foods that are free of preservatives.
This is because in many cases, packed food labeled as sugar-free, low-fat or low-calorie may contain substitutes that are harmful or carcinogenic. A sugar substitute called aspartame, has been associated with tumors.
3: Electronic radiation
The low-energy electromagnetic radiation emitted by devices like mobile phones and microwave ovens increase the risk of being affected by cancer. In order to reduce the risk, it is advised that we use such devices in moderation.
4: Increase in the cellular phone towers
The widespread use of cell phones have led to a rapid increase in the number of cellular phone towers in our cities. They receive and transmit radiofrequency (RF) signals, which are given off into the environment, that could constitute a potential health hazard to humans.
The American Cancer Society covers in detail how cellular phone towers can put people at risk of tumors and cancers.
Brain tumor treatment in India
Brain tumors are treated differently at different stages, keeping individual cases in mind. More importantly, since we’re speaking of pediatric brain tumors, treatment options becomes more crucial.
Depending on the behaviour and characteristics, location and size of the tumor, medical professionals may opt for one, or a combination of treatments like chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, or surgery.
More commonly known as ‘chemo’, it is the use of drugs to treat or kill cancer cells that have already spread in a person’s body. While radiation and surgery can affect cancerous cells only in a certain part, chemo medication has its effects on the entire body.
It is often used as palliative treatment, when cancer is in its advanced stages, with the goal to reduce pain or improve the patient’s quality of life.
Radiation is that one word which is most commonly associated with cancer treatment. It uses high-energy x-rays, gamma rays, beams, or protons to damage or destroy cancer cells, and prevent them from multiplying or spreading to other parts of the body.
Radiation comes with some side effects, because the rays may also affect other cells in our body. Side effects include fatigue, nausea, hair loss, skin problems, appetite loss, etc.
3: Targeted therapyTargeted therapy is a relatively new technique that uses drugs to attack only cancer affected cells. It is similar to radiation, but has different side-effects because it is more specific in it’s target.
Immunotherapy uses one’s own body and immune system to fight cancer. Certain proteins are given to patients, to stimulate their immune system to work harder in order to fight the cancerous cells. In most cases, it is used in a combination with another treatment.
Usually when cancer is found in only one part of a person’s body, it can be removed with one or more surgeries by cutting out the cancerous part, and preventing it from growing and spreading.
This technique won’t be efficient if a person has cancer spread in other parts of the body, therefore it might have to be done in combination with another treatment.
Brain tumor treatment cost in India: Treatments needs to be made more accessible
When you receive the devastating news of a child suffering from a brain tumor, it is a painfully heavy burden on the child as well as his/her family. Such a news is not only emotionally taxing, but also financially draining.
Financial constraints are the main reason that the number of pediatric brain tumor cases have gone up. It is quite clear that somewhere, the problem lies in the lack of accessibility and awareness.
Moreover, if a family does find a credible child neurologist/ oncologist or treatment centre, the problem of arranging money for medical expenses arises.
Even basic medication, doctors and hospital fees are well beyond the spending capacity of majority Indians.
Besides, complete therapy may go on for years after the disease is cured. One couldn’t think of anything more disheartening than a parent having to lose their child battling brain cancer, because they were not able to arrange money for medical treatment in time.Brain tumor treatment in India: How to raise funds for brain tumor surgery?
When it is a question of life or death that depends on expensive treatments, you will do anything to raise the funds you need for your loved one. At times of dire need for funds to cure the suffering of a child, medical crowdfunding has come as a ray of hope to many.
Online crowdfunding platforms are a great source of seed money, that uses technology and innovation to mobilize people who are compassionate to help.
A fundraising platform is an easy and fast way to help family get financial assistance for a child’s medical needs.
Parents are free from the burden of taking loans that come at high interest rates, and insurances that barely cover treatments as exorbitant as that of cancer.
Crowdfunding has not only saved lives, but also brought together communities of people who have suffered the same fate, to look out for one another.
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