AS the world marks February 4 as World Cancer Day, the disease remains a significant public health concern in India. An estimated 1.5 million new cases are reported in India every year. And the burden of cancer is an ever-increasing problem. What is of particular concern is the incidence of childhood cancer which is on the rise. According to some figures, India is home to a significant portion of the world’s childhood cancer cases. An estimated 75,000 children in India are diagnosed annually with cancer. This accounts for 20% of the global burden of childhood cancer.
The theme for World Cancer Day for the last two years is ‘Close the Care Gap.’ The ‘care gap’ remains one of the biggest challenges in India. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that everyone can make a difference in fighting cancer. Every concerned person from around the world can make genuine progress in reducing the impact of cancer.
Cancer remains the second-leading cause of death worldwide, with around 10 million people dying yearly. The most shocking figure is that 70% of all cancer deaths occur in low-to-middle-income countries. But the numbers can reduce as at least 40% of cancer deaths can be prevented by addressing modifiable risk factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, unhealthy diet, and lack of physical activity. Approximately one-third of cancer-related deaths are preventable through regular screening, early detection, and treatment.
Situation In India
According to a study, in India, the rate of cancer detection is alarmingly low at 29%. Sadly, only 15% and 33% of breast, lung and cervical cancers are detected in early stages 1 and 2, respectively, compared to higher rates in China, the UK, and the US.
A 2019 parliamentary report showed that despite yearly diagnoses of 16 lakh new cancer cases in India, 8 lakh patients still die annually. Moreover, the cost of treatment pushes 6 crore Indians into poverty annually. The report expressed alarm over the 68% death rate among cancer patients and called for the rapid upgrade and expansion of cancer care infrastructure, making it more affordable for the country. But, this goal faces difficulties due to resource scarcity, resulting in significant disparities in cancer treatment.
Keeping in with the theme of ‘Close the Care Gap’ for this World Cancer Day, it is essential to emphasise that we can reduce the disparity by following the following steps:
a) Educating the public on cancer prevention
b) Providing healthcare professionals with knowledge of cancer care and inequity
c) Strengthening primary health care in communities
d) Addressing social and economic factors affecting health through policy and programme
e) Increasing resources for cancer research and tracking the cancer burden
f) Implementing tailored cancer prevention and control plans for each country’s needs and resources
On World Cancer Day, one has to acknowledge the increasing burden of cancer and the inadequate quality of care. It is crucial to understand the current challenges and create solutions across all stages of cancer management in India.
Early diagnosis and awareness
One of India’s critical challenges in managing cancer is the lack of early diagnosis. Cancer often goes undiagnosed until it has advanced, making treatment more complex and ineffective. This is particularly true for childhood cancer, where symptoms are often mistaken for other conditions. It is crucial to raise awareness about cancer’s warning signs and educate the public about the importance of seeking medical attention early.
Access to Quality Care
Access to quality medical care is a significant challenge for many people with cancer in India. A shortage of pediatric oncologists and limited facilities make it difficult for patients to access the care they need. Additionally, the cost of treatment is often prohibitively high, putting it out of reach for many families. Improving access to quality care is crucial in managing India’s growing burden of cancer.
Cancer treatment for children requires a multidisciplinary approach, involving medical, surgical, and radiation oncologists, as well as paediatricians and rehabilitation specialists. This coordinated approach to care can result in better outcomes for children with cancer. It is essential to ensure that patients have access to a team of specialists who can provide comprehensive and coordinated care.
Support for Families
Cancer treatment can be a stressful and challenging experience for families. Providing emotional and practical support to families is important, including counselling, support groups, and financial assistance. This can help families cope better with the experience and improve outcomes for the child.
The challenge of managing cancer in India is complex and requires a multidisciplinary approach to address the various issues involved. Early diagnosis, access to quality care, interdisciplinary care, and support for families are crucial in managing the growing burden of cancer in India. By working together, we can improve outcomes for people with cancer and help to reduce the burden of this disease on the population.
How can you help bring down cases of cancer in India?
Donate: You can donate on GiveIndia to various NGOs working to provide medical care, support services, and financial assistance to cancer patients, especially children.
Volunteer with NGOs: Work and support NGOs that are working in cancer care. This could involve assisting with fundraising events, providing administrative support, or working with patients directly.
Raise awareness: Spread the word about cancer and how awareness about it can prevent cases from taking serious proportions.
Fundraise: You can also organise a crowdfunding initiative or an event to support various NGOs. This could involve hosting a charity walk, a bake sale, or any other event that raises awareness and funds for their cause.
Established in 2000, Give is the largest and most trusted giving platform in India today. Our community of 2.6M+ donors have supported 3,000+ nonprofits, impacting 15M+ lives across India.
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.