MUMBAI: Ensuring a wholesome meal has been helping save lives of children undergoing treatment in 35 cancer hospitals across the country, including Mumbai.
An analysis of the impact of nutrition on 12,900 children with cancer done by Mumbai-based NGO Cuddles Foundation found that proper nutrition during treatment helped seven out of 10 kids survive cancer. Cuddles Foundation, which works with government and charity cancer hospitals, has been providing food to children and their families since 2013.
“Roughly 57% of children with cancer were undernourished when they first started their journey with Cuddles Foundation between April 2021 and March 2022. Around 37% were severely undernourished,” said the NGO’s head of research Anju Morarka.
Malnutrition can significantly affect treatment outcomes in cancer, said Shalini Jatia, officer-in-charge of ImPaCCT Foundation of Tata Memorial Centre, Parel. “At least 50% of all children coming to our hospital are malnourished at presentation. Malnutrition significantly increases morbidity and mortality in children with cancer and leads to poor outcome,” she said, adding that nutritional therapy is the fourth component of multidisciplinary treatment of childhood cancer with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
“Providing holistic nutrition support allows timely, optimal delivery of other three treatment modalities and improves chances of cure significantly in children with cancer in low-middle income countries like India,” said Jathia.
The proof that nutritional support helps can be gauged from the fact that 81% of pediatric patients helped with nutritional support improved or maintained their nutritional status, despite cancer therapy such as chemotherapy or radiation.
“We’ve seen many of the children playing around right after undergoing chemotherapy. These are happy as they are nutritionally taken care of,” said Cuddles Foundation founder Purnota Dutta Bahl.
Besides providing hot meals for patients, the NGO provides ration bundles to families of cancer-affected kids. “The task of bringing a child for treatment means parents lose out on working or taking care of other children. So, we provide ration for a family of four every month,” she said. The NGO spends about Rs 4,600 per child a month. Average monthly income of families enrolled in the Cuddles support programme is Rs 10,000.
However, the NGO’s analysis found a skewed gender ratio among cancer-affected kids in 35 hospitals it works with. “For every five boys, there are only three girls who get detected. In the West, the ratio is 1:1,” said Morarka.
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Published by: Times of India
on July 10, 2022