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‘8,000 children diagnosed with cancer every year’

Updated February 17, 2019

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There are only 13 centres for paediatric cancer care in the country. ─ Reuters/File
There are only 13 centres for paediatric cancer care in the country. ─ Reuters/File

KARACHI: Despite the fact that approximately 8,000 children — under the age of 18 years — are diagnosed with cancer every year in Pakistan, there are only 13 centres for paediatric cancer care in the country.

This was stated by Dr Shamvil Ashraf, executive director, medical services at the Indus Hospital (IH) and senior consultant of paediatric oncology, at an event organised at the hospital to mark International Childhood Cancer Day on Friday.

The day was first celebrated in 2002 by Childhood Cancer International, a universal campaign seeking to raise awareness and promote an appreciation and deeper understanding of challenges faced by children and adolescents with cancer and their families.

Speaking at the programme, Dr Ashraf said that more than 300,000 children were annually diagnosed with cancer, one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality among children and adolescents.

An estimated 80 per cent of such cases occur in lower- and middle-income countries.

“In Pakistan, almost half of children with cancer have no access to treatment whereas a large number were unable to complete their treatment,” he told the audience.

According to him, Pakistan has low cancer survival rate which falls between 20 to 25pc while in the developed world 80pc of such patients survive.

“Pakistan plans to achieve 70pc childhood cancer survival by 2030. The vision aims at saving lives of children with cancer and meeting psycho-social and palliative care needs of children and their families,” he said.

Dr Ashraf also spoke about the hospital’s role in reducing cancer burden and said that the Korangi Campus had dedicated 85 beds for paediatric oncology patients and as of June 2018, about 9,000 children had been treated for cancer and blood diseases.

The event also featured activities designed to create awareness of childhood cancer, desensitising medical equipment and highlighting creative reuse of non-hazardous medical items.

Visitors had the opportunity to see and appreciate handicrafts created by cancer patients, which were displayed at the Paediatric Complex at an exhibition.

In addition, there was a storytelling session premised upon a child’s journey with cancer.

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2019