“In Pakistan, annually, approximately 8000 children – under the age of 18 years – are diagnosed with cancer. At present, we have only 13 centres for paediatric cancer care”, alarmed Dr. Shamvil Ashraf, Executive Director, Medical Services; and Senior Consultant, Paediatric Oncology, Indus Health Network (IHN). Dr Ashraf was addressing the International Childhood Cancer Day (ICCD) at the Indus Hospital (TIH) on February 15, 2019.
ICCD is celebrated globally. It was started in 2002 by Childhood Cancer International (CCI). ICCD is a universal campaign seeking to raise awareness and promote an appreciation and deeper understanding of the challenges faced by children and adolescents with cancer, and their families. The Indus Hospital supports CCI – a global network of 171 member organisations – to address the global goal of reducing childhood cancer mortality and the elimination of cancer-related pain and suffering.
While shedding light on the global scenario, Dr. Ashraf said, “More than 300,000 children are diagnosed with cancer globally every year and it is one of the leading cause of morbidity and mortality among children and adolescents. An estimated 80% of such cases occur in Lower and Middle Income (LMICs) countries.”
Pakistan has a vulnerable position in terms of cancer treatment. Approximately 50% children have no access to treatment and 70% do not complete treatment. Pakistan has low cancer survival rate which falls between 20 to 25% while in the developed world 80% of children survive. Pakistan plans to achieve 70% 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.
Dr Ashraf further elaborated on the role of TIH in reducing cancer burden and told that the Korangi Campus has dedicated 85 beds for paediatric oncology patients and as of June 2018, about 9,000 children have been treated for cancer and blood diseases.
The Paediatric Psycho-Social Department designed activities centered around spreading awareness on childhood cancer, desensitising medical equipment, and upcycling non-hazardous medical items that would typically be waste. Counselors created therapeutic activities involving gauze and bandages, blood collection tubes, needle-less syringes, and used vial caps, and used them to help reduce the fear and anxieties, children associate with them.
Cancer patients’ crafts were showcased in an exhibition held at the Paediatric Complex, on February 15-16, 2019. In addition to the therapeutic medical play, the Psycho-Social Department also organised a storytelling session premised around a child’s journey with cancer.
The exhibition was attended by TIH’s donors and supporters, paediatric patients and their families, the faculty, nursing staff, and other hospital employees.