A file photo of volunteers of an NGO with children under treatment for cancer.
Bengaluru: Some 18,000 new cancer patients walk into government-run Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology every year with about 2.5 lakh for follow-ups. Out of this nearly 9,000 new patients are from Bengaluru city limits.
The numbers shared by Kidwai point towards a disturbing rise in cancer cases and lack of awareness among the patients. Among new cancer cases female patients (4,300) outnumber males (3,500).
"The female cancer numbers are way above the males and they have preponderance towards breast and cervix cancers," said Dr C. Ramesh, Professor and Head, the Department of Epidemiology, Kidwai hospital. He elaborated that 1,200 new cases of breast cancer was recorded in the city within the BBMP limits and 600 new cases of cervical cancer.
Unfortunately the National Family Health Survey 2015-16 (NFHS-4) reveals that only 7 per cent of Bengaluru women have ever got a breast examination done. This reveals lack of awareness among women and their busy lifestyle. "Not even 10 per cent of women walk into the OPD for a breast examination. It is only if there is a lump or there is a relative that has breast cancer," said Dr Garima Jain, senior consultant, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Apollo Cradle, Bengaluru.
She felt the relatively low number was definitely a cause of worry from a doctor’s perspective. These numbers are shocking as they come from urban educated women, who are not doing much to pick the warning signs. "Cervical and breast cancer can be easily detected and good cure rates can be achieved. It is a curable malignancy, provided it is detected on time. Unfortunately, they come at an advanced stage because of lack of awareness," said Dr Ramesh.
"There are issues that many times stop or prevent women to walk in for timely diagnosis and treatment. They fear loss of hair or breast, which may affect their personal life. This issue is a challenge and hence they should be informed that they will lose hair, but not breasts if they come for timely diagnosis," said Dr B.S. Ajai Kumar, founder Chairman and CEO, HealthCare Global Enterprises.
71% deaths in 30-59 age group
Approximately 1.4 million new cases are detected every year in India alone. Of the total number of deaths due to cancer, the 30-59 age group accounts for 71 per cent of the deaths, which has a significant impact on the GDP due to direct loss of productivity.
The challenge with regards to cancer care in India is the inability to bring the latest advancements in treatment fast enough. With the vast number of treatment options and clinical trials available to treat cancer patients, and the rapid rate at which new information is becoming available, it is important for physicians to have easy access to a single source of up-to-date data to make informed cancer treatment decisions with their patients. Nearly 32 per cent of all treatment plans today do not meet evidence-based standards of care. There are two major problems faced by patients in India, with regards to cancer, i.e. access to expertise in cancer care and cost-effective medicine.
Right experts, right timing make all the difference
Q & A with Gitika Srivastava, founder & Chief Executive Officer, Navya, a Bangalore-based organisation partnered with Tata Memorial Centre, to provide online treatment opinions to cancer patients.
Could you tell us about Navya?
Our organisation, Tata Memorial Centre and the National Cancer grid came together three years ago to go provide an online expert opinion to cancer patients. Considering that there are not many cancer experts, many a times patients are left looking for better line of treatment. With a second opinion by experts, patients can avoid sub-optimal treatments and also know the right line of treatment.
How do you work?
We have an online and a mobile app that can be used by patients and clinicians respectively. Navya provides patients and physicians with the tools to make expert treatment decisions for complex medical conditions. So the patients need to register and upload their medical records which the doctors can access through their mobile app and after studying they can give an expert opinion. They offer you an evidence-based expert decision on your treatment options.
What is the need?
There are patients hailing from remote parts of the country who would require a second opinion and traveling to CMC Vellore or Tata Memorial Centre and other Cancer Centres requires time, effort and energy. Sometimes a patient is not in a position to travel that far.
What is the biggest issue when it comes to cancer care?
Patients need to have access to expert opinion and technology. And there should be no difference between the financially underprivileged or a person at a place which is remote and lacks technical expertise. Standardizing cancer care is needed. Information and treatment disparity should be experienced by patients at any part of the country or globe.
How has the response been?
After clinical trials, Tata Memorial launched the service for breast cancer patients in 2014, but in 2015 we went live and since then over 9,000 patients have reached out to us for the second opinion. And over 50 have reached out to us from Bengaluru.