INTERNATIONAL studies estimate that over 10 million people die from cancer every year, and at least one-third of common cancers are preventable. The worrying aspect of cancer deaths is that 70% of them occur in low-to-middle-income countries. India is one of them.
A parliamentary panel in 2019 said while 16 lakh new cancer cases are diagnosed in India every year, the annual mortality is eight lakh. Treatment costs of cancer also push six crore Indians below the poverty line every year. The same panel also noted with concern that 68% of cancer patients succumb to the disease. A fast expansion and upgradation of cancer-treatment infrastructure can make cancer care affordable in the country. That is easier said than done. Our country lacks resources, leaving enormous gaps in the treatment of the cancer-affected.
Many cancer care NGOs play a vital role in bridging the gap. This is done through accessible or affordable healthcare, nutrition and other forms of support. These interventions give the patients a fighting chance to survive cancer.
On World Cancer Day, we look at 10 cancer care NGOs that are helping patients in various ways. They are also spreading awareness about the disease and its prevention.
This child-focused cancer care NGO believes that providing nutrition to the illness-affected, especially children, is one of the most effective ways of fighting cancer. Around 40% of children with cancer in India are malnourished at diagnosis. Cuddles believes in providing holistic nutrition to underprivileged children fighting cancer.
Its FoodHeals Programme is about providing proper nutrition customised to a child’s medical condition. Cuddles Foundation’s trained nutritionists work with government and charity cancer hospitals and share food and supplements with patients and families. The Foundation is supplying nutritious food for children in 30+ government and charity cancer hospitals. These are spread across 20 cities in the country.
The organisation’s centres are a home away from home for underprivileged families during their child’s treatment for cancer. St. Jude’s mission is to provide a clean, safe and cost-free environment and holistic care to children with cancer. It also supports the parents of such children.
This cancer care NGO provides every child suffering from the illness, irrespective of economic status, a chance of surviving the disease. In its 33 centres across India, St. Jude provides families in need with free housing, nutrition and free transportation. It also offers art-based therapy, music therapy and yoga for the patients. These, along with skills training for income generation.
The Charutar Arogya Mandal manages many medical and paramedical institutions across Gujarat. And it is now one of the leading NGOs for cancer patients in India. The organisation is the brainchild of the late Dr HM Patel, former Finance and Home Affairs Minister.
Charutar Arogya Mandal provides state-of-the-art multidisciplinary cancer care for patients from weaker economic groups at affordable or no cost. Shri Krishna Hospital, which the Mandal runs, does over 500 cancer surgeries. It also provides 2,000 patients with radiotherapy and 2,500 patients with chemotherapy every year.
Founded in 1951, Indian Cancer Society is considered to be the first cancer care NGO that started to provide help to patients in India. And it has been helping with the early detection of cancer through centres and mobile camps across India. It especially focuses on the underprivileged.
It also supports the underprivileged with accommodation, rehabilitation, and survivor support groups. ICS runs several campaigns to create awareness about the disease, risk factors, prevention, and treatment options, and counsel patients and survivors. ICS is the sole body among the Indian NGOs to run a cancer registry. The registry provides detailed data and projected reports regarding cancer occurrence.
Udhavum Ullangal literally translates to “helping hearts.” Although the Charitable Trust’s main functions are in education, healthcare – especially prevention of cancer and rehabilitation of cancer patients – has brought positive changes in the lives of many people.
This cancer care NGO conducts medical education programmes each year, in association with the Department of Public Health, Government of Tamil Nadu. They also conduct cancer awareness and screening camps associated with Chennai’s Cancer Institute. They have screened more than 1.5 lakh people for cancer across the state, having worked towards cancer control and prevention for more than 10 years.
The Trust’s awareness programmes include treating tobacco addiction and counselling, screening for various types of cancers such as oral, breast, cervical, and many more.
As the organisation’s name suggests, CanKids KidsCan works with children who have cancer through its signature programme YANA – You are Not Alone. They provide holistic support to a child with cancer and the family, from detection, through diagnosis treatment, and thereafter to improve the survival chances.
The organisation runs six ‘Home Away From Homes’ – a low-cost model where children with cancer and their families can stay while they are undergoing treatment. It also runs a one of its kind Special School for Children with Cancer in Mumbai, called “Canshala.” Its Paediatric Palliative Care Centre (PPCC) Subhita provides comprehensive palliative and supportive care for children with cancer.
This was established by former India cricketer Yuvraj Singh, a cancer survivor. The Foundation works extensively in the healthcare sector, focusing on cancer issues. The organisation educates people about cancer prevention techniques, the importance of getting screened regularly and the signs and symptoms of cancer. The foundation does this through online campaigns, medical camps, corporate awareness workshops, street plays, music festivals, media campaigns and awareness events.
Yuvraj Singh Foundation’s vision is to eradicate the stigma associated with cancer in India. It also aims to change the negative public perception of the disease – that is preventable and curable. The Foundation also helps with frequent screenings and early detection of cancer and provides support to cancer patients and their families.
The organisation’s mission is to raise the bar of cancer care in India through a community-building exercise and covering the entire patient cycle from prevention to rehabilitation.
Sanjeevani works with patients from weaker sections of society and provides them with free treatment. It also motivates and encourages patients to keep a positive outlook towards treatment and life. Founded in 2012, Sanjeevani has enriched the lives of over 1,80,000 patients to date.
It runs various programmes for cancer patients. One of them is called CanSahyogi. Under this, it provides emotional, psychological and logistical support to patients and their relatives besides hand-holding patients through the course of their treatment. CanSahayogi project now helps patients across 13 centres spread across nine states and one union territory in the country.
Started by Devika Bhojwani in 2003, in partnership with Tata Memorial Hospital, the Women’s Cancer Initiative has come a long way in taking care of various issues related to the disease in women such as breast, cervical and ovarian cancers. The initiative’s core activity comprises the support of socially and economically disadvantaged women who are diagnosed with breast and gynaecological cancers.
The Foundation based at the Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai, has undertaken numerous initiatives to create awareness and emphasise the importance of early detection. According to the organisation, around 25,000 new cancer patients are registered with it every year, the majority belonging to the underprivileged sections of society.
When it was founded over 52 years ago, the mission of the Cancer Patients Aid Association (CPAA) was to become an all-encompassing cancer help agency that works towards patient care, aid and assistance, awareness, early detection, rehabilitation and advocacy.
It has largely stuck to that mission. The CPAA meets the needs of as many poor cancer patients as it can to have access to cancer treatment.
An expert in cancer management, CPAA now mentors other healthcare organisations across India, based on this holistic philosophy through its presence in Mumbai, New Delhi and Pune.
(This article was updated in February 2023)