Leukemia or blood cancer affects children and makes them prone to recurrent infections, bleeding and extreme weight loss. Finally when the cancer spreads they develop multi-organ failure leading to death. The different types of leukemia are acute lymphoblastic accounting for 60% of all childhood leukemia’s and acute myeloid leukemia accounting for 5% of all childhood leukemia’s.
Early detection and prompt through treatment can lead to survival of 80-90% of the children. However because of the prohibitive costs of treatment, parents in India are unable to comply with chemotherapy protocols, as result of which survival among our children is only 50-60%.
In a child with acute lymphoblastic leukemia the first stage of treatment is ‘induction of remission’. In other words the blood and bone marrow are purged of all cancer cells. This treatment involves multiple chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics and immunoglobulins and is spread over 6 months. The cost of this alone is about 4lakhs (Table1). This is followed by maintenance chemotherapy where the blood and bone marrow are prevented from metastazing to cancer cells. This is spread over 2 years and with only Rs.50,000 because the child is given oral chemotherapy tablets.