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DUBAI: Dubai Hospital achieved a 88.5 per cent cure rate on childhood cancers in 2019, which is on par with the world paediatric cancer cure rate of 85-90 per cent, according to a statement issued by its paediatric oncology department.

This reflects the UAE’s rapid journey towards its goal of an overall cancer reduction by 18 per cent by 2021 in keeping with its National Health Agenda, the statement said.

The UAE National Health Agenda 2021 has included cancer as one of the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to assess the nation’s health-care goals being on track. According to the 2013 figures provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO), cancers in UAE claim 78 deaths per 100,000 of the total population. The target is to reduce the numbers to 64.2 deaths per 100,000 by 2021.

Speaking to Gulf News on the occasion of International Childhood Cancer Day 2020 on February 15, paediatric oncologists from Dubai Hospital said that most cancers in children were curable with early detection and treatment.

Early screening

M.K., a six-year-old Nigerian boy suffered from fever, paleness, aching bones and an inability to walk for three months before he was referred to the Dubai Hospital’s oncology department in 2014. Dr Anjan Madasu, head of the paediatric oncology department told Gulf News, “In Nigeria, he was diagnosed as a poliomyelitis case but our tests indicated that he was suffering from leukaemia. Early diagnosis and the right treatment helped the child become cancer-free and he has returned to his country.”

Oncologists urged parents to be vigilant and to get their children screened if they find any of the symptoms.

Healthy lifestyle

Dr Hani Hunad, specialist oncologist at Dubai Hospital, said: “Childhood cancers can be partially attributed to genetics and partially to environmental impacts. Factors such as exposure to chemicals, pesticides, trans fats, sugars and unhealthy, sedentary lifestyles are also triggers for cancers.”

The doctors urged a reduction in obesity, an active lifestyle and nutritionally balanced meals in tandem with parental vigilance and pro activeness in screening for a more effective outcome to reduce the prevalence of childhood cancers. These preemptive factors could also contribute to a higher cure rate due to timely intervention, they said.

Dr Arun Karanwal, medical oncologist, Prime Hospital, who has been a former bone marrow transplant specialist in India, said that a multi-modality protocol in case of children proved to be very effective in controlling and curing childhood cancers. “Children usually suffer from leukaemia, lymphomas and tumours in brain, kidney and other organs. It is found that in case of early to even advanced detection, an aggressive multi-pronged protocol that includes surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy for extended periods of six to eight months, has proven to be effective in curing a large percentage of cancers. Nearly 90 per cent of childhood cancers can be cured [through this protocol],” added Dr Karanwal.