National Cancer Awareness Day
The former Indian Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, first declared November 7 as National Cancer Awareness Day in September 2014. November 7th is also the birth anniversary of Nobel Prize winning scientist, Marie Curie. Marie Curie, is most known for discovering radium and polonium and for making a significant contribution to the fight against cancer. Her research helped to create nuclear energy and radiotherapy for effective cancer treatments.
This day is marked to promote awareness on cancer as a public health issue and to strengthen actions towards improving access to quality care, screening, early detection, treatment and palliative care. Every year, this day is observed to draw attention to the importance of the condition and to raise awareness about its early detection, treatment, and diagnosis. According to WHO, approximately 70% of deaths from cancer occur in low and middle-income countries. In India, nearly 1.1 million new cases of cancer are reported annually.
The National Cancer Control Program was initiated in 1975 to provide cancer treatment facilities in the country. Two-thirds of cancer cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage, reducing patients’ chances of survival. Various programs have been initiated to increase research on the prevention and early detection of cancer. It is estimated that one woman dies of cervical cancer every 8 minutes in India. Tobacco (smoked and smokeless) use accounted for 3,17,928 deaths in men and women in 2018. Cancers of the oral cavity and lungs account for over 25% of cancer deaths in males and cancer of the breast and oral cavity account for 25% of cancers in females.
Today, Dr. Harsh Vardhan advises that if detected early, cancer could be treated at a fraction of the cost that is incurred when diagnosed at an advanced stage. Its mortality rate is also lowered substantially if people report for screening when the earliest symptoms are manifested.
National Cancer Control Program
This program was launched in 1990-91 and under this programme each state and union territory has advised to prepare their projects on health education, early detection, and pain relief measures. For this they can get up to Rs. 15 lakh one time assistance and Rs. 10 lakh for four years recurring assistance. The district programme has five elements:
1. Health education.
2. Early detection.
3. Training of medical & paramedical personnel.
4. Palliative treatment and pain relief.
5. Coordination and monitoring.
The District programs are linked with Regional Cancer Centres/ Government Hospitals/ Medical Colleges. For effective functioning each district where the programme is started has one District Cancer Society that is chaired by the local Collector/Chief Medical Office. Other members are Dean of medical college, Zila parishad representative, NGO representative etc.
There are 17 regional cancer research centers in India at present. Their main functions are: Cancer Detection and Diagnosis, Provision of Therapy, after care and rehabilitation, Education and Training, Cancer Registration and Research. Coordination with the medical colleges and the general health infrastructure is the essential feature. The core requirements of a Regional Cancer Centre are divisions of surgical oncology, radiation oncology, and medical oncology with support from the department of anesthesiology, pathology, cytopathology, hematology, biochemistry and radiodiagnosis with appropriate equipment and staff.
Oncology wings in Medical Colleges
1. Identification of IEC activities so that people seek care at the onset of symptoms.
2. Provision of diagnostic facilities in primary and secondary care level so that cancers are detected at early stages when curative therapy can be administered.
3. Filling up of the existing gaps in radiotherapy units in a phased manner so that all diagnosed cases do receive therapy without any delay as near to their residence as feasible.
4. IEC to reduce tobacco consumption and avoid lifestyle which lead to increasing risk of cancers.
It would be at two levels-Central Government and State Government- with linkage through the Central Council of Health. It is suggested that the respective executive committee should be assisted by a newly constituted National Cancer Control Board at the central and stage levels by the corresponding Cancer Control Boards. The full time officer-in-charge of cancer control is an oncologist who heads the Cancer Control Cell at the Directorate General of Health Services.
The target of the National Cancer Control Program is to develop such Oncology wings in all medical colleges in the country. Medical Colleges would form an important link between the regional centers on one hand, and the more peripheral health infrastructure (District Hospitals, Tehsil Hospitals, PHCs) on the other hand. Financial assistance has been released for medical colleges / hospitals for installation of cobalt therapy facilities. For that Rs. 2 crore per institution has been provided under this scheme.