Covid-19 Pandemic Worsened Cancer Burden In India: Study

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Non-Communicable diseases account for nearly 63 percent of the total deaths in India, and cancer at 9 percent is one of the leading causes.

As many as 1,392,179 people in India had cancer in 2020, and the five leading sites of the disease are breast, head & neck, uterine, and lung.

Specialists point out that 94.1 in every 100,000 men are cancer patients in India, and this number increases to 103.6 in every 100,000 women. They feel that India needs to take a proactive approach towards reducing this burden.

“India is a low-middle income nation, and there is significant increase in cancer incidence and most of the patients are coming with advanced and metastatic disease due to lack of awareness. Already the government is taking necessary action to create awareness, a betterment is needed at the village and district headquarter level like online education and creating healthcare teams to tackle this problem,” Dr Madhu Devarasetty, Senior Consultant Surgical Oncologist, KIMS Hospitals told IANS.

According to a study published by the Lancet, one of the leading platforms for healthcare and research, cancer services like new patient registrations, outpatient services, admissions to hospitals, major cancer surgeries have all fallen in India starting March 2020.

Lockdowns and restrictions on movement and fear of contracting Covid have prevented many to access cancer care.

Added to this, some hospitals had to be converted to Covid centers desperately and with several hospital staff affected with Covid themselves, reduced resources for cancer care have made things difficult.

“This situation, though has gradually improved in 2021, we observe that the fear of Covid-19 has kept away many patients at home and then, presenting at advanced cancer stage or with multiple uncontrolled comorbidities which need to be treated along with cancer treatments thereby increasing risks and also a delay,” observed Dr M Srinivas Reddy, Senior Consultant Surgical Oncologist at American Institute of Oncology -Kamineni Hospitals, LB Nagar.

He feels that screening should be prioritized for cancer, like it is done for infectious diseases. “I request our government to develop applications for spreading cancer awareness. Government could possibly devise strategies to make best use of this data in tackling other prevailing health complications like cancer,” he said.

Dr. Vaibhav Chaudhary, Consultant- Medical Oncology, Wockhardt Hospital, Nagpur believes that awareness, early diagnosis, and treatment are three key means to prevent or cure cancer among people. “Unless people come in for early diagnosis and treatment, which only happens with awareness about the risk, cancer burden cannot be reduced in the country. Since early 2020, we have noticed that many patients who are at risk of developing a cancer delayed seeking medical attention. It is important that cancer patients and those who are at risk of developing a cancer must overcome all fears and seek medical attention to defeat cancer,” he said.

Commenting on the cancer spread in recent times, Dr. Srikanth Soma, Consultant Surgical Oncologist, SLG Hospital said many factors like consumption of tobacco, unhealthy dietary practices, and poor hygiene among economically weaker sections are possible reasons for spread of cancer diseases in the country. “In addition to these, there are hereditary factors which are increasing cancer burden, especially among the women. Though there are means to tackle these problems efficiently, lack of awareness is a major challenge in doing so.”

Source: IANS

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