Battling Wilms’ Tumor – My 3 year old cousin’s story

Battling Wilms’ Tumor – My 3 year old cousin’s story

On October 14th 2016, I was shocked to learn that my 3 year old cousin was diagnosed with a large tumor on her kidney. Never before had I been faced with such scary news. As my parents and I rushed to LA to see her, I wondered what could have been done to prevent this. No one had seen this coming – it was heartbreaking. I was googling all the information I could find trying to learn about children’s cancer. 

Based on my research, I learnt there are three types of children’s cancer:

Leukemias—Cancer of the Blood

Lymphomas—Cancer of the Immune System

Solid Tumors—Cancer of the Bone, Organs or Tissues

My little cousin was diagnosed with the third kind, a solid tumor on the kidney, otherwise known as Wilms Tumor. She underwent a major surgery to remove one of her kidneys. The surgeons told us that the surgery went well and they were able to remove the entire tumor. Following the surgery she is undergoing Chemotherapy. My cousin is now aware that she is being treated for cancer, but her spirit and energy is an inspiration to me and my family. Every evening, I eagerly look forward to talking to her on FaceTime. No matter how she is feeling she is excited to talk and share what she is up to. There are days when she has little or no energy due to the Chemo treatment but her spirit is upbeat and positive – an advantage children have over adults who are fighting cancer. Her treatment will be completed in March after which I hope she can get back to doing some of the things she loves including playing in water and pretend play.

As my sister continues to fight the disease, her struggle has given me even more motivation to continue the pursuit to prevent and diagnose this deadly disease. Most of us in the US are really fortunate to have access to the most advanced diagnostic equipment and trained doctors – something people in several parts of rural India can’t afford or lack access to. In the cases where there is access to cancer diagnosis and treatment, awareness about cancer is seriously lacking. My hope is that through Yellow Pomelo we can spread awareness about Children’s cancer as well.

Ponnavaram Screening Camp Update

Our second cancer screening camp was conducted on November 5th & 6th in Ponnavaram, Andhra Pradesh. This camp was conducted along with a general health screening camp. The participation from the surrounding villages and Ponnavaram community was extremely positive.  This camp would not have been possible without the help of volunteers, well wishers and family. I would like to convey my heartfelt thanks to all those who made this camp a success.

The misconceptions regarding cancer in rural India continue to be a big challenge. People in rural India are afraid to get screened for cancer as they feel their recourse for treatment is limited. This is certainly not true as the health insurance provided by the government to low income groups completely covers cancer treatment at leading cancer treatment hospitals. Spreading awareness is vital in eliminating these misconceptions. My hope is that by creating awareness about early diagnosis and treatment options, we can continue to make impact in fighting this dreadful disease. 

Camp Highlights

  • Created awareness around cancer and the early detection of cancer

  • Screened approximately 667 people.

  • Detected cancer in 5 people.

  • Provided options for further testing and treatment to patients – Further tests and treatment costs will be covered by a government sponsored health plan.

  • Paved way for additional camps in partnership with local non-profits.


The Importance of Preventive Care : How a focus on awareness and screening can be used to fight the cancer epidemic

The Importance of Preventive Care : How a focus on awareness and screening can be used to fight the cancer epidemic

There exists a perception among the economically disadvantaged that cancer is a death sentence. However, this does not have to be true. There are solutions to this issue and it lies in a healthcare revolution centered on preventive health care and increasing awareness.

Currently cancer is an ongoing epidemic in many parts of the world and is expanding its reach, with 14.5 million people currently being diagnosed with cancer and an expected 19 million by 2024. It disproportionately affects the poor as shown by a study published on behalf of the American Cancer Society which suggests that the cancer sites most associated with high poverty in America had both a relatively low incidence and high mortality. In summary, the disadvantaged in America, although contracting cancer at a similar rate to the general population, face rare and dangerous cancers.

Preventive health care encompasses a form of addressing disease that puts an emphasis on preventing diseases as opposed to treatment. In general, correctly utilized preventive health care allows people to be healthy for longer, helps to  avoid the onset of disease, suppresses already present diseases, and lowers the costs for the patient.

The most relevant applications of preventive health care strategies to the Cancer epidemic involve mass routine screening and lifestyle changes which can be encouraged through increased awareness.  Cancer is a disease that dramatically progresses in severity with time. For example, those with stage 0 breast cancer have almost a 100 percent 5-year survival rate, while those with stage IV breast cancer have a 22 percent 5-year survival rate.  Additionally, the cost of breast cancer screening is only $100 while the difference in cost for stage 0 and stage IV breast cancer treatment is $110,746 per the CDC. For many, the early diagnosis provided by focused on preventive health care can be the difference between life and death. In the words of oncologist Ravi Kannan, “If women came to my clinic when their lump was 1 cm rather than 10 cm, it would make a massive difference to their survival.”

Despite the potential efficacy, of addressing the cancer epidemic with a preventive health strategy that relies on mass screening opponents argue that mass cancer screening is not yet feasible. However, this issue can be solved by governmental action — specifically, the allocation of government funds to preventive health care plans. Perhaps insurance companies should provide incentives such as lowered premiums to encourage preventive measures whether it be lifestyle changes or screening. As expensive as cancer screening may be, it is far less than the estimated $100,000  average yearly price of cancer drugs per the Mayo Clinic.

Ultimately, the cancer epidemic and its disproportionate effect on the poor can be addressed through an emphasis on preventive health care in the form of cancer screening and awareness. In addition to its effectiveness as a treatment approach, this change in mindset towards the Cancer epidemic will give everyone a chance to stand up against cancer.  

 

Chataparru Screening Camp Update

The Cancer camp went smoothly and wass a great learning experience. It was overwhelming to see the participation and response from the Chataparru community. I would like to convey my heartfelt thanks to all who made this camp a possibility.

At the camp, when talking with the doctors, I learned more about the perception of cancer in rural India. I was saddened to hear that cancer was thought of as a “rich man’s disease”.  In other words, the economically disadvantaged think of cancer as a death sentence. However, this is a misconception. In India, the health insurance provided by the government to low income groups completely covers cancer treatment at leading cancer treatment hospitals. Spreading awareness is vital in eliminating these misconceptions. My hope is that by creating awareness about early diagnosis and treatment options, I can make a small impact in fighting this dreadful disease. 

Camp Highlights

  • Created awareness around cancer and the early detection of cancer

  • Screened approximately 700 people.

  • Detected cancer in 5 people.

  • Two patients have already begun treatment that is completely free – thanks to the the health insurance provided by the government.

  • Set groundwork for future camps.


Fundraising Goal Reached!

Fundraising Goal Reached!

After a lot of hard work fundraising, we have successfully reached our goal for the Chataparru project. Thanks to the generous contributions of friends, family, and well wishers, we have surpassed our fundraising goal of $7,000.With the extra funds we hope to conduct future programs.

I’m excited about the cancer screening camp. We have already started spreading awareness in and around Chataparru by distributing pamphlets, newspaper inserts, and television advertisements. With the help of volunteers, we have started pre-registrations for the camp. So far the interest has been encouraging. I’m looking forward to the camp on February 20th and 21st.

Cancer and Cardiac Screening Camps

Cancer and Cardiac Screening Camps

After our unbelievable experience last year with telemedicine, we decided to expand our preventative care efforts with cancer and cardiac screening camps. While telemedicine can be immensely useful, in regions where there is a lack of resources, more immediate needs are necessary to address. One of these needs is cardiac screening. Heart disease is the leading killer in India and accounts for 12.5% of deaths. Furthermore,  low-income Indians have a 49.1 % higher mortality rate from heart disease than the richest. Additionally, cancer is becoming widespread at an alarming rate in India. Just in the last year, I lost an aunt and a granduncle to this dreadful disease.  Unfortunately, both my aunt and granduncle could have greatly benefited from early detection and management of the disease.

With cancer and cardiac screening camps, we can address these immediate needs with diagnosis and medication. Ongoing care can then be provided with telemedicine.

Survey Findings

The Preliminary Survey

After getting in contact with the Rishi Valley Rural Health Center, I began the preliminary work for our project in Rishi Valley. Our projects must be done in steps and cannot be implemented all at once. First, we had to determine how telemedicine could help the people around Rishi Valley, and if it was a desired solution. Even if there was a need for telemedicine, there may have been other significantly more pressing issues. Also, it was possible that the patients were not comfortable enough with technology and telemedicine to be a solution. At this point, the idea of telemedicine was just a hypothesis. Medicine is an evidence based science, we needed to identify the ailments the patients felt telemedicine could help with, and their willingness to make use of telemedicine.

In order to determine the needs and interests of the patients I created a survey to be administered at the Rishi Valley Rural Health Center. With the help of Dr. Kartik and his team we were able to administer this survey to a large sample of patients. From the survey, we were able to gain a variety of information which confirmed the usefulness of telemedicine to the people in the villages surrounding Rishi Valley. After analysis of the data I was able to use the information to proceed.

Key Takeaways from the Survey

  • The majority of patients live more than 25 km away from the health center with 41% living more than 50 km away.

  • About 70% of the patients take more than an hour to reach the health center.

  • More than 60% of the patients were above the age of 40.

  • Patients were open to having their temperature, blood, and blood pressure tests done at their home without visiting the health center.

  • There was overwhelming support for the usefulness of video visits for diabetes, hypertension, and coronary heart disease.