EVERY year, November 7 is observed as National Cancer Awareness Day in India. The Government of India in 2014 declared that the birth anniversary of Nobel laureate Marie Curie would be observed as National Cancer Awareness Day. Marie Curie’s research led to the development of radiotherapy to treat cancer,
India is one of the most cancer-affected countries in the world. People suffering from cancer are projected to increase to 29.8 million in 2025 from 26.7 million in 2021. An Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) report in 2021 listed some of the most prevalent cancers in the country. The ‘Burden of Cancers in India’ by ICMR, says that seven forms of cancer are responsible for over 40% of all cases in India. These include lung (10.6%), breast (10.5%), oesophagus (5.8%), mouth (5.7%), stomach (5.2%) and liver (4.6%) cancer.
Oncologists say that smoking and increased consumption of packaged food in India as some of the contributory factors. Packaged food could have carcinogenic preservatives, oncologists say. National Cancer Awareness Day is seen as an important day to remind people about the dangers of cancer. But many people from low-income backgrounds in India often cannot afford even basic care. What about them?
Here’s where NGOs come into the picture. They bridge the gap by making cancer care accessible. Some NGOs also provide the necessary nutrition needed for the people. Children, in particular, are the focus of many NGOs. These organisations help them fight the disease effectively and defeat it.
NGOs Helping children fight cancer
One of the NGOs on Give.do, India’s largest and most trusted crowdfunding website, is Cuddles Foundation. The organisation concentrates on children as most forms of cancer at a very young age are curable. One of the problems in India is that up to 40% of children with cancer are malnourished. Most of these children belong to low-income families making their survival a challenge. Cuddles provides children undergoing cancer therapy with various forms of care. These include trained paediatric nutritionists, expert dietary counsels, diet-appropriate meals, monthly ration baskets and caregiver support. The organisation firmly believes that good food helps medicine work!
CanKids KidsCan is another organisation on Give, India’s best crowdfunding website. This NGO works with children with cancer through its signature programme, You Are Not Alone (YANA). The organisation provides support not only to children but also to their families. From detection to diagnosis and treatment, the NGO greatly improves the survival chances of children with cancer. You can read about more NGOs that care for children with cancer here.
NGOs helping patients from underprivileged backgrounds
As the country marks National Cancer Awareness Day, here are a few other NGOs that are working for cancer patients in need of help. Gujarat-based Charutar Arogya Mandal is one such organisation. This NGO provides state-of-the-art multidisciplinary cancer care for patients from lower-income backgrounds. The organisation-run Shri Krishna Hospital has helped hundreds of patients with critical surgeries in the last few years. Thousands of survivors have received radiotherapy and chemotherapy sessions.
Indian Cancer Society (ICS) is over 70 years old, making it one of the oldest cancer care organisations in the country. It educates people about the risks of cancer decades before National Cancer Awareness Day was conceived. Indian Cancer Society is considered the first cancer care NGO that started providing help to patients in India. ICS helps people with the early detection of cancer through centres and mobile camps across India. Besides educating people, Society supports people who cannot afford the costs of cancer with accommodation and rehabilitation.
ICS also has an extensive network of organisations and volunteers to spread cancer awareness and educate people about the risks and prevention options. It also counsels patients and survivors so that they lead a normal life rather than live in the shadow of the disease. What makes ICS unique among NGOs is that it has an authoritative cancer registry. This provides detailed information about the state of cancer in India, risks, projected data and other such information. This is vital for the government and others to formulate policies and plan interventions.
Care of Women survivors
Women’s Cancer Initiative-Tata Memorial Hospital was by Devieka Bhojwani (herself a breast cancer survivor and a prominent social activist of Mumbai) in 2003, in partnership with Tata Memorial Hospital. The Initiative has come a long way in taking care of various issues related to disease in women such as breast, cervical and ovarian cancers. The organisation’s primary focus is on supporting women from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds who are in need of urgent breast and gynaecological cancer care.
Women’s Cancer Initiative-Tata Memorial Hospital was founded by Devieka Bhojwani (herself a breast cancer survivor and a prominent social activist of Mumbai) in 2003, in partnership with Tata Memorial Hospital. The Initiative has come a long way in taking care of various issues related to disease in women such as breast, cervical and ovarian cancers. The organisation’s primary focus is on supporting women from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds who are in need of urgent breast and gynaecological cancer care.
National Cancer Awareness Day is a timely reminder for people of the risks of the disease and also a time to acknowledge the excellent work being done by NGOs in the field of cancer care.
Kumara has been a professional journalist for over 15 years with stints in The Telegraph and Reader’s Digest. He grew up hating maths and physics. He is a post-graduate in history. Kumara believes that cricket and Seinfeld have answers to most questions that life throws at you.