NEW DELHI: Existing and upcoming cancer care facilities are not enough to tackle the increasing burden of cancer cases in India, according to oncologists.
There are only 62 dedicated cancer care hospitals in the country, including both regional and national facilities, according to the National Cancer Grid. This is woefully inadequate as an estimated 2.25 million people in India live with cancer as of March 2018, according to the National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research (NICPR).
More than 1,157,294 new cancer patients are registered every year. In 2018, 413,519 men and 371,302 women died of cancer, according to the Indian Council of Medical Research. That apart, 9.81% of men and 9.42% of women are at risk of developing cancer before 75 years of age.
The number of dedicated cancer care facilities will not be able to tackle the burden in the future, said oncologists.
“The government has realized that cancer burden is increasing and hospitals treating cancer are meagre in number. That is why the investments in cancer hospitals is going on. Still, this is very little when we look at the unabatedly increasing number of patients," said Ravi Mehrotra, director, ICMR-NICPR.
“Diagnosis facilities are very important, which are also not there. We need much more infrastructure to handle this patient load," said Mehrotra.
The recent addition to the list of dedicated cancer care centres is the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at Jhajjar, Haryana, under the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). The outpatient department has already started functioning and the centre is expected to be fully functional soon.
NCI will have 710 beds dedicated to cancer prevention, treatment, research and education. It will be equipped with cutting-edge technology and shall have 25 operation theatres, 5 linear accelerators, 4 PET Scanners, 3 Brachy-therapy, 2 CT scanners, 2MRI scanners, and much more.
India’s first public sector Robotic Core Clinical Laboratory has also been established at the NCI at a cost of ₹15 crore. The laboratory can perform more than 60,000 tests per day and can give reports within two hours.
The government plans to have more cancer hospitals. “The major problem in our country is late diagnosis. Most patients come to us in the third or fourth stage, which further increases the disease intensity and burden. The regional centres cater to a limited population. The medical colleges also treat cancer patients, but eventually, they refer them to bigger (national) centres. We have a minuscule number of national cancer centres," said P.K. Jhulka, senior director, Max Institute of Cancer Care.