Strong health systems programs that facilitate early detection and treatment of cancer in a cost-effective manner are the way forward

Post Date – 11:40 PM, Tuesday – July 23rd 25th

Editorial: A Vicious Threat
Strong health systems programs that facilitate early detection and treatment of cancer in a cost-effective manner are the way forward

Cancer is the king of diseases and considered the last frontier of medical knowledge, presenting complex challenges that researchers have yet to overcome. Despite tremendous advances in the medical field, it’s still largely a losing battle for humanity. In India, the burden of cancer is rising rapidly, posing multiple challenges to an already overwhelmed healthcare system. These figures are staggering. The same goes for mortality. Of the 1.461 million cancer cases detected in 2022 (an increase of 35,000 on the previous year), 808,000 patients will die, compared with 789,000 in 2021, according to a recent report to parliament. The number of cancer patients is expected to increase to 29.8 million by 2025. In addition to being disheartening, these figures are also a warning to health authorities and the public. Even with improvements in treatment, cancer incidence and death rates are still rising in the country. There is an urgent need to improve treatment, palliative and preventive measures and strengthen cancer care infrastructure. Strong health systems programs that allow for early detection, early control of risk factors and effective treatment of disease in a cost-effective manner are the way forward in the ongoing fight against the dreaded disease. The most common cancers in India are breast cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, rectal cancer and prostate cancer. India has a dubious record of having one of the highest rates of cancer mortality and incidence in the world.

The results of a 2022 study by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and Ernst & Young (FICCI-EY) are even more alarming: the actual incidence of cancer may be two to three times higher than the official figures. The urgency of building specialized hospitals with oncologists and state-of-the-art machines cannot be overemphasized. At the heart of the problem is the lack of easy access to specialized hospitals for timely disease detection and affordable treatment. Since quality care is unaffordable for a large proportion of cancer patients, the government would do well to expedite the construction of cancer institutes and tertiary care centers. The public healthcare system is overburdened, while private hospital treatment is prohibitive and out of reach for many. In this context, it is equally important to focus on campaigns aimed at increasing public awareness of cancer detection and prevention. In addition to known risk factors such as tobacco and alcohol consumption, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle, environmental factors also play an important role in the rising burden of disease. Processed and packaged foods that contain preservatives have also been linked to cancer. Practicing healthy habits, including regular exercise, is key to preventing disease. Among women of reproductive age, breast and cervical cancer are the most common causes of cancer death. However, these forms of cancer are largely preventable through early screening.

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