MUMBAI: “We need to focus on the suffering and pain behind each patient merely represented as a number in the report. Efforts need to be made to reduce that pain not just in analysing the data,” Dr Raj Badwe, director, Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai said. Dr Badwe was speaking at a panel discussion after the release of a study – Cancer mortality in India, published in ‘The Lancet’ based on nationally representative survey.
Prof. Prabhat Jha, Director Center for global health research said that while it is a long time before we ‘win over’ cancer, it can certainly be controlled. “The findings in the report suggest that we need to focus on the awareness initiatives so that we don’t let cancer take over the speed of medical facilities. In areas where we have found that women have a high cervical cancer rate, we should use government health workers or NRHM for screening and educating women. The process of vaccination can take longer but spreading awareness and timely detection can reduce the numbers substantially in the next five years.”
According to the study even though the rates of cancer deaths in India are about 40 per cent lower in adult men and 30 per cent lower in women than in men and women in the USA or UK, however the cases of cancer have increased in India, “ In India Cancer is killing younger people, the poor, the lesser-educated are worst hit. There were 5.56 lakh cancer deaths in India in 2010 but what is most alarming is that 71 per cent of these deaths occurred in people aged 30-69. That means our young population is more prone and with the increase in use of Tobacco products, especially non smoking forms, the number is bound to rise,” Dr Badwe added.
According to the report the three most common fatal cancers in men (30-69 years) were oral (23 per cent), stomach (13 per cent) and lung (11 per cent). For women in the same age group, the leading causes of cancer death in women were cervical (17 per cent), stomach (14 per cent), and breast (10 per cent). 42 per cent of males and 18.30 per cent of female cancer deaths were due to Tobacco-related cancers and there were twice as many deaths from oral cancers as lung cancers, in part due to common use of chewing tobacco in men and women.
Another myth buster in the study was that Cancer death rates were two-fold higher in the least educated than the most educated, and (the differences) were similar between urban and rural areas. “Apart from the ‘awareness factor’ one possible explanation would be that chewable tobacco use was higher among the less educated and also that the richer Indians tended to seek treatment earlier,” Prof Jha said. Calling for better health services and vaccines Dhirendra Sinha, Director Surveillance WHO SEARO said the most important message from the study for Indian government is to immediately increase tobacco taxes and prices substantially – which studies have shown to be the single most effective measure to reduce smoking. “Higher tobacco taxes are as close to an effective anti-cancer vaccine as you can get.”.
The study stated that Cervical cancer was around 40 per cent less common in Muslim than in Hindu women, “Although we need o investigate this lot more before we can conclude but this is probably due to high circumcision rates among Muslim men that has a protective effect against human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, a causative agent in cervical cancer,” said Dr Rajesh Dixit, Head of Epideiolmology, Tata Memorial Hospital. The panel of eminent doctors and health experts predicted that if vaccines against infection by the human papillomavirus (HPV) were available for girls and women in India, deaths from cervical cancer would be reduced from 33,000 to 7,000. (Eom)