Kochi: Even as cancer has become a huge burden on Kerala which already has eight lakh cancer patients and every year 52,000 new patients are added, an acute dearth of cancer specialists stares the state.
The number of medical oncologists in private and public sectors combined is 33 while the number of surgical oncologists is 35. Radiation oncologists tops at 104 while haematologists and paediatric oncologists are four each. The cancer care facility is heavily concentrated in the private sector.
The number of radiation machines is also abysmal: cobalt-6, linear accelerator-28, brachytherapy units – 15 and cyberknife -1
As per the 2015 data, 176 males get cancer in a population of one lakh while in the case of females it is 177 every year in the state.
The most common are leukaemia, oral cavity and lung cancers in men and breast, thyroid and cervical cancer in women. Tobacco is the major cause of cancer in males.
RCC is the only centre in government sector with all facilities while Malabar Cancer Centre has no permanent medical oncologist and the Cochin Cancer Research Centre (CCRC) has just started.
A total of 10 private hospitals in the state offer advanced cancer treatment while six private hospitals have the service of cancer specialists.
Thiruvananthapuram, Alappuzha and Kottayam medical colleges don’t have any medical or surgical oncologist while Thrissur and Kozhikode have surgical oncologists. All these five MCs have radiation oncologists. In the government sector general hospital, Ernakulam, Pariyaram medical college, Thrissur GH and Kozhencherry taluk hospital have cancer specialists.
In the case of districts, Kollam, Kasargod, Wayanad, Malappuram, Palakkad and Idukki do not have any cancer care facilities in both private and public sector.
“In the light of this abysmal scenario, cancer care, including giving day care chemotherapy, should be started at all district hospitals. Moreover, cancer care follow-up clinics should be started at all taluk hospitals,” said Dr P.G. Balagopal, medical superintendent, Cochin Cancer Research Centre.
Dr Balagopal also said that cancer awareness and anti-tobacco campaigns should be included in school curriculum. “The government should also declare cancer as a notifiable disease like polio so that the exact incidence and prevalence of the disease can be identified,” said Dr Balagopal....