New Delhi: Demand for more cancer detection and treatment centres to tackle swelling burden of the disease in India was a point of discussion in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. Members of various political parties called for more such centres in every district of the country so that the problem can be mitigated for the poor suffering from the disease.
They also demanded for more spending on healthcare for improving cancer treatment and detection facilities and reducing the cost of cancer treatment for the poor. Citing various reasons for the disease including lifestyle, contamination in food products and water and excessive use of polythene and radiation through mobile phones, Vishmabhar Prasad Nishad from Samajwadi Party said cancer is the worst disease in the world and its incidence is fast increasing in India.
“The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that a major part of India’s population will be afflicted with cancer and steps are required to be taken by the government. While the rich can get themselves treated abroad, it is the poor who have to suffer the most and the government needs to step up its efforts in this regard," he said.
Similarly, Jogen Chowdhury from Trinamool Congress said more women in India die of breast and cervical cancer and that Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine should be the part of the government immunization programme. Samajwadi Party’s Chandrapal Singh Yadav raised the issue of ensuring basic facilities and affordable treatment to cancer patients.
Replying to the concerns raised by the members, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said that the government is giving attention to research for combating cancer through national as well as international collaborations. Under Ayushman Bharat, the government aims to establish 1.5 lakh health and wellness clinics in the country by 2022 out of which, 19,000-20,000 have already been established and by 31 March, 2020, this figure will reach 40,000.
“At present there are 482 centres in the country for cancer treatment with 695 teletherapy machines. The ‘National Cancer Grid’ initiative for uniform treatment of cancer patients was being closely monitored by the Prime Minister, with 177 institutions, activists, patients and advocacy groups associated with it. Around eight institutions have already been dedicated towards this objective, while two are in the offing in Odisha and Bihar. Around 60-70% of the common cancers detected in India are preventable, early diagnosis is very important," said Harsh Vardhan.
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 11,57,294 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 (ICMR). Apart from this, 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, claim oncologists. “The cancer detection and treatment facilities in India are grossly inadequate. In spite of government and private cancer centres increasing in numbers over the years in certain parts of country, many more need to be built with state of art facilities with focus on prevention on early diagnosis," said Ravi Mehrotra, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Indian Cancer Research Consortium (ICMR).