World Cancer Day: India’s cancer treatment still has a way to go
In India, the likelihood of developing cancer in one’s lifetime is one in nine.
The threat of cancer, a serious NCD, is growing along with the prevalence of non-communicable illnesses (NCDs) in India. Allocating resources to successfully combat NCDs like cancer may be difficult as long as India continues to share a high burden of preventable communicable diseases.
In 2020, cancer will cause roughly one in six fatalities (GLOBOCAN 2020 data- latest report from WHO).
World Cancer Day is observed annually on February 4 to increase public awareness of the disease and to promote education on its prevention, detection, and treatment. The World Cancer Declaration’s objectives are supported by World Cancer Day, which is organised by the Union for International Cancer Control.
The subject of World Cancer Day this year is “Close the Care Gap” to draw attention to unequal access to cutting-edge cancer care and treatment.
Cancer is a condition that causes some human body cells to grow out of control and spread to other body areas. According to studies, cancer can develop practically any place in the body.
There are more than 100 different forms of cancer, according to cancer.gov. Depending on the particular cell type, there are also several types of cancer, some of which include: Carcinoma, Sarcoma, Leukemia, Lymphoma, Multiple Myeloma, Melanoma, among others.
How widespread is cancer in India?
The predicted number of incidence cases of cancer in India for the year 2022 was discovered to be 14,61,427, according to a report published in the India Medical Journal in 2022.
The study found that one in nine Indians has a lifetime risk of developing cancer. The survey also noted that, for men and women, respectively, lung and breast malignancies were the most common cancer sites.
Lymphoid leukaemia (boys: 29.2%; girls: 24.2%) was the most common site among children’s (0–14 year) malignancies. According to the report, there will be an estimated 12.8% more cancer cases in 2025 than there were in 2020.
An estimated 8,00,000 new cancer cases are expected to be detected in India each year, according to data from the cancer registry.
“The load is expected to be three times the 240,000 occurrences at any given time. 35% to 50% of all malignancies in men and 17% of cancers in women are associated with tobacco smoking. In India, 14,61,427 cancer incidences are anticipated to occur in 2022. One in nine Indians will develop cancer at some point in their lives.
An ICMR study using information from population-based cancer registries found that one in nine Indians will get cancer at some point in their lives. One in every 68 men will have lung cancer, and 29 women will develop breast cancer, according to Dr. Babina NM, Chief Medical Officer of the Jindal National Institute in Bangalore, who spoke to Financial Express.com.
The most common form of cancer among women is breast cancer. It accounts for 10.6% of all cancer-related deaths in India and 13.5% of all cancer cases (across all age groups and genders) (GLOBOCAN 2020-India data). According to the ICGA Foundation, the poor survival rate of BC patients in India is mostly attributable to the disease’s earlier start, late-stage presentation, delayed initiation of effective therapy, and insufficient treatment.
In India, a higher percentage of breast cancer cases start earlier than in the West.
How far has cancer treatment come in India over time?
Dr. Babina claims that the high incidence issue in India is exacerbated by late detection, inadequate and unequal access to multimodality, and low affordability, leading to a significant death load.
However, due to the increased accessibility of cutting-edge technologies like genetic testing and personalised medicine, enhanced imaging techniques, minimally invasive surgery, targeted chemotherapy drugs, and radiotherapy, as well as better-trained medical staff and upgraded infrastructure, cancer treatment in India has significantly improved.
Modern services are available to patients at an expanding network of specialised cancer hospitals and treatment facilities. Dr. Suveera Dhup, Chief Operating Officer, ICGA Foundation, told Financial Express.com that access to high-quality cancer care is still a problem in many portions of the nation, particularly in rural and neglected communities.
Patients now have a wide range of therapy options accessible to them to either cure or restrict the growth of cancer, according to Financial Express.com interview with Dr. Anil Heroor, Director-Advanced OncoSurgery Unit, Fortis Hospitals Mumbai.
What types of cancers are most prevalent in India?
Lung, oral, cervical, breast, and stomach cancer are the most prevalent cancers in India, according to Dr. Babina. A projected 14.6 lakh new cancer cases were detected in 2022, up from 14.2 lakh in 2021 and 13.9 lakh in 2020, according to data from the National Cancer Registry of the Indian Council of Medical Research. (ICMR).
“In both men and women, death rates decreased by 4% to 5% annually in lung cancer and melanoma. Male fatalities from malignancies of the pancreas, brain, bones, and joints were higher than those from pancreatic and uterine tumours, according to Dr. Babina.
Cancer patients in India continue to face difficulties.
Dr. Babina claims that the patient’s lifestyle and attitude, their various physiologies and the rate at which their bodies metabolise medications, the blood supply to the tumour, the physiology of the tumour, and the fact that the tumour can change over time all contribute to the difficulty of treating cancer.
“Cancer’s propensity to spread is another another problem with treatment. Without treatment, cancer can spread from the site of origin to other parts of the body because certain cancers are asymptomatic and cannot be detected, she told the media.
According to Dr. Dhup, cancer therapy is frequently postponed or rendered insufficiently in rural and neglected locations, which has a negative impact on results.
Oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, and other healthcare professionals are all in limited supply. Many cancer treatment facilities lack the tools and infrastructure required to offer cutting-edge cancer care. Many patients find the treatment to be beyond of their price range, which causes financial hardship and reduces access to care, according to Dr. Dhup.
She continued, “Stigma and superstitions still surround malignancies like breast, cervical, prostate, and lung, which limits access to care and lowers the quality of life for patients and their families.
Dr. Dhup also made note of the tremendous strain on the nation’s cancer care caused by late-stage cancer diagnosis and subpar treatment outcomes.
Targeted actions are necessary to defeat the cancer demon, she continued, in order to promote cancer prevention, early detection, and equitable access to cancer care across the nation.
According to Dr. Heroor, there are only a limited number of oncologists available to treat the roughly 13,00,000 to 15,00,000 patients who are diagnosed with cancer each year.
Approximately one oncologist is available for every 2000 patients, according to reports. Infrastructure is also a problem because there are only about 300 multi-specialty hospitals and 60 to 70 cancer treatment facilities in India, he continued.
There is no longer a necessity to remove malignant organs.
The removal of diseased organs like the jaw or breast was once common, Dr. Babina noted. The ability to do organ preservation surgery is now possible because to targeted radiotherapy and chemotherapy, where the growth of a specific cell is restricted in order to preserve the organ, she said.
Oncology imaging biomarkers are unique in that they can evaluate and determine the size and stage of the tumour. Cancer imaging consists of two main procedures: Oncology imaging biomarkers are unique in that they can assess and determine the size of the tumour. In addition to this, people are now utilising alternative therapies like naturopathy. According to Dr. Babina, naturopathy comprises treatments including massage, acupuncture, cognitive behavioural therapy, and meditation.
Recent advancements in cancer treatment include the following:
Precision oncology: Using genetic and molecular data to personalise cancer treatment for each patient, improving results and minimising side effects. A useful resource in this direction can be large-scale studies that take into consideration the genetic profiling of malignancies in a population.
Targeted immunotherapies harness the immune system’s strength to combat cancer cells in the body of the patient. Clinical trials have showed considerable promise for a variety of cancer types with the use of immune checkpoint inhibitors, monoclonal antibodies, therapeutic vaccines, and chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells.
In order to improve cancer diagnosis and treatment planning, artificial intelligence and machine learning are being used to analyse vast volumes of data, including genomic data and medical pictures.