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Cancer unit for kids

Park Circus: Calcutta got 12 more paediatric oncology beds on Wednesday with the inauguration of a dedicated cancer unit for children at the Institute of Child Health.

Tata Medical Center in the only other hospital in the city that has a dedicated unit with 12 beds for children.

The Mrinalini Cancer Research Centre at the institute has come up at a cost of almost Rs 1.5 crore.

Apart from monetary help by several doctors and individuals and the institute’s fund, a chunk came by way of money raised in the US for the treatment of a child two years ago.

Mrinalini Dasgupta was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a cancer in the adrenal gland just above the kidney, in 2015.

Mousumi Mullick, her aunt’s friend based in California, raised Rs 35 lakh through social media and corporate donors. After the child’s death, Mullick donated the money to the institute.

The treatment protocol for children is different from that of adults. So, dedicated units for children are needed, along with more doctors and nurses trained in paediatric oncology, several doctors said.

“It is not only about a different kind of treatment. Only children have cancers such as retinoblastoma, a cancer of the retina. Adults don’t have it,” Arpita Bhattacharya, senior consultant, paediatric oncology, Tata Medical Center, said. “Specialised training is needed to treat such cancers.”

Studies in Europe and the US have shown results are better when children are treated in paediatric setups, she said.

Children mostly suffer from cancers of the blood unlike adults where cancers related to lifestyle or environment are more common.

They tend to respond better to chemotherapy as well and their recovery rate is high, oncologists said.

“Children aren’t small adults. They shouldn’t just be given medicines in reduced doses,” Deepsikha Maity, who is in charge of the Mrinalini centre, said. “Trained doctors treating more and more patients acquire an obvious expertise that general oncologists don’t have.”

The Mrinalini centre has tied up with Tata Medical Center. Doctors from the Tata hospital will visit the centre. Pathological samples will go to Tata Medical for cancer tests.

“We welcome the Institute of Child Health’s move to start a paediatric cancer unit,” surgical oncologist Gautam Mukhopadhyay said. “Paediatric oncology should be treated as a specialised discipline and trained doctors should treat children.”

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