Cancer is on the rise in India, putting an unprecedented strain on the country's healthcare system. India is home to billions of cancer patients. Lung, breast, esophagus, mouth, stomach, liver and cervix uteri cancers accounted for more than 40 per cent of the total burden of cancers in India, according to a report by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR). The number of Indians suffering from cancer was estimated to be 26.7 million in 2021, and it is projected to increase to 29.8 million in 2025. The highest cancer incidence is reported in the North (2,408 patients per 100,000) and the Northeast (2,177 per 100,000). Higher number of cancer cases are reported among men than women. These figures are harrowing! It is essential to tackle loopholes when it comes to cancer care.
"With the number of new cancer cases expected to rise further, understanding and addressing challenges in cancer care has become a major priority," says Dr. Suhas Aagre, Consultant Medical Oncologist and Hemato-Oncologist, Mumbai.
In a tete-a-tete with TheHealthSite, Dr. Aagre highlighted some of the factors contributing to the increasing cancer burden in India. Read on
The top five cancers among men are lung, head, and neck regions (mouth, tongue, and larynx), prostate, and esophagus. When it comes to women, breast, cervix, ovary, oral cavity, and uterine cancer are most commonly seen. While the number of cancer patients is rising every year, the availability of quality care is inadequate. Only a few patients are able to receive prompt treatment, with many facing a lack of access to early diagnosis and treatment due to poverty and lack of healthcare infrastructure mainly in rural areas. There are many people who suffer in silence and fail to understand the symptoms. Thus, there are higher mortality and morbidity rates due to cancer. To top it all, there are many who are unable to afford treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy owing to the financial crisis.
Though, government initiatives have been implemented in recent years to improve access to care, much more needs to be done. Patients don't have adequate knowledge about cancer, symptoms, whom to approach, and the prognosis of the disease. Still, patients in rural areas have to travel a long distance to seek cancer diagnosis and treatment. While many tertiary cancer centers are equipped with state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment protocols, this is yet to reach a standard level in many hospitals in smaller towns.
Apart from these challenges, other factors also raise one's chances of suffering from cancer. The spurt in cancer cases is alarming. Certain factors such as tobacco and alcohol consumption are the major reasons for cancer. Obesity, pollution, family history, and genetics can also invite cancer. Moreover, the Covid pandemic also led to a lot of challenges in cancer care as people were forced to stay at home during the lockdown and couldn't seek treatment on time. This also led to physical and mental trauma.
Late-stage diagnosis has led to an obstruction in cancer care. Thus, targeted efforts are needed to ensure prevention, early-stage detection, and equitable access to cancer care in the country. We need awareness drives, campaigns, and initiatives to help people understand about cancer care. It is the need of the hour to educate school children and colleges regarding cancer. Currently, due to cutting-edge technology, complicated cancer cases are being tackled without any severity.
Written by Longjam Dineshwori.