With very little percentage of cancer patients having access to comprehensive and timely treatment support, a need to face this issue has arisen. Take a look at the ways in which this issue can be resolved
Dr. Harit Chaturved
It might seem like a contradiction – that in the field of oncology, we are doing much better than before, yet we have a long way to go. I often feel we have hardly covered any significant ground. Not more than 15 per cent of our population has access to timely and comprehensive treatment support. To add to this difficulty, we are expecting that cancer incidences will double within the next decade, because of demographic profile, life expectancy, growing economy, lifestyle, etc. Are we prepared to face this challenge?
A major problem is that a big chunk of our resources are spent on advanced stages of cancer and that too in the last six months of treatment in a patient’s journey. If the same resources are spent on cancer prevention and early diagnosis, it would be extremely beneficial for the patients and society at large. It is heartening to realise that almost 60 per cent of cancer is preventable. Tobacco contributes to more than two-thirds of patients in this segment and the other preventable causes are related to diet, lifestyle, vaccine for cervical cancer, liver cancer, etc. Proper education using IT and mass communication tools, with focus from primary education level onwards, could change the scenario rapidly.
Establishment of diagnostic centres
In early stages, the treatment outcomes are very gratifying, less expensive and there is minimal treatment-related morbidity. The operational cost of such a setup would be less than 5 per cent of operational cost of a hospital. These centres could be attached to nearby larger treatment facilities. Probably lot of diagnostic load from hospitals would also shift. These centres should be well equipped with imaging, endoscopies and biopsy procedures. The SOPs should ensure that more than 80 per cent of the patients are adequately attended in less than 72 hours. No cancer facility is complete without a comprehensive palliative care setup as an integral part, and it’s high time we bring the palliative care program centre stage.
Need for infrastructure
In the last two decades, we have seen dramatic growth in trained manpower and number of comprehensive cancer centres. In fact, in the last fifteen years, these numbers would be more than the total work done in the hundred years before that. There is a need to understand our disease pattern and response to treatment. To execute this, we need the infrastructure for research.
Chairman – Max Institute of Cancer Care
Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket, New Delhi