Changing face of cancer care in India

By Dr. Aditi Chaturvedi in Cancer Care / Oncology

May 07 , 2020 | 3 min read

The burden of cancer is increasing dramatically with each decade. As per the latest WHO report, we are losing 9.6 million lives per year due to cancer. Even in India, it is estimated that around 1 in 10 people will suffer from cancer during their lifetime. These numbers are worrisome but at the same time, the field of oncology and the understanding of cancer is witnessing rapid change every few years. All of us need to take a collective effort to win this battle and it starts with simple measures like prevention and early detection.

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More than one-third of all cancer cases can be prevented by simple measures. Stopping the usage of any form of tobacco or limiting (mild) alcohol consumption and adopting a healthy lifestyle are the simplest measures that should be stressed. Obesity has emerged to be the second largest preventable risk factor for cancer and all of us should incorporate a simple, healthy diet, avoid junk food, and include at least 30 minutes of exercise in our daily schedule. Good hygiene awareness, education, better family planning, and HPV vaccination of young girls have helped in bringing down the incidence of cervical cancer significantly. 

Early detection is the second biggest tool with us. In the early stages, the treatment has much better outcomes in terms of survival and quality of life, side effects (morbidity) of treatment are less, and often fewer treatment modalities are used. All this is at a much lesser cost too. For the same tumor (cancer) type and organ the difference in outcome and cost between stages I and III could be threefold. To pick up cancer in its early stages, awareness about breast self-examination (being breast aware) and screening mammograms are 2 other easily available tools that should be propagated.

What is also important to be understood is that symptoms of cancer are not different from symptoms of other diseases. Any change is it cough, change in voice, loose motions, blood in stools, lump in breast, irregular periods may be a symptom of cancer if it is unexplained and persistent for more than two weeks. We should also remember that cancer doesn’t affect the elderly only. A significant number of our breast and colorectal cancer patients among others are in the 3rd and 4th decade of their lives. So any persistent and unexplained change at any age should ring an alarm and necessitate further evaluation by an oncologist.

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The management of cancer has evolved significantly. We understand the tumor better through detailed pathological interpretation through a lot of specialized tools, and genetic and molecular studies. The widespread availability of imaging investigations has also led to better mapping of tumors. All this, with the understanding of multimodal treatment approaches, where all the specialists brainstorm together on every case, in a ten minutes interaction of the team, fine unique nuances of the case come out, leading to better strategies. We have a better treatment arsenal and strategies to apply.

Few newer methods, which have appeared on the scene in the last 5-6 years are the ones such as CRS HIPEC for metastatic colorectal and advanced ovarian cancer, robotic surgery for prostate and uterine cancers, otoplasty for breast cancers, immunotherapy and targetted therapy for a lot of cancers like lung, kidney, head neck, GI, IGRT, and DIBH radiation techniques, etc. All these tools have enabled us to improve outcomes for our cancer patients and provide higher cure rates with better quality of life for most tumor types and stages. 

We, at Max Institute of Cancer Care, are a group of 80+ clinicians dedicated to disease management group (DMG) based multidisciplinary cancer treatment. With experts who have spent years treating only one group of cancers, we are able to offer the latest evidence-based management to our patients in a comprehensive manner. We have conducted more than 800 breast cancer surgeries and treated over 1500 breast cancer patients in the last year and more than 500 bone marrow transplantations in the last decade: two small examples of what a dedicated organ specific team can achieve. 

We strive every day to improve our patients' lives. We take pride in our commitment to contribute to solving the cancer problem for our society in every aspect. Our connection with our patients on the support group campaign ‘NidarrHamesha’, gives us insight into the challenges these fellow citizens go through. Our commitment never gets over by completing the treatment, it’s a relationship for life, where, we get one more partner, strengthening our cause.