February 4 is not just another date in the calendar. It’s World Cancer Day, the day when we all come together to contribute to a change in our little ways. “The butterfly effect refers to the fact that an action, as insignificant as a butterfly flapping its wings can ultimately result in a typhoon halfway around the world!” – The Chaos Theory
Empowering, isn’t it? The advent of Covid-19 taught us one thing – we are stronger when together and each one of us is capable of bringing about a change. It has also shown us that, collectively, we can fight any disease, even Cancer. World Cancer Day is about spreading cancer awareness but more importantly, it is about getting the whole community involved in a fight against it. Small efforts can go a long way in overcoming the barriers of early detection, treatment and care for the patients.
The magnitude of the problem
A report by the National Cancer Registry Programme, India cites that about 1.4 million new cancer cases were diagnosed in India in 2021 alone. That is twice the number of Covid-19 cases in the state of Telangana alone over the past two years!
How do we curb this growth year on year?
1. Follow a healthy lifestyle: Exercise every day and eat right.
2. Stop smoking and encourage everyone around you to do the same.
3. Stay away from tobacco, smoke or smokeless.
4. Control your drinking and never mix alcohol with smoking.
5. Be conscious of the environment where you work and live; it should be free of pollutants.
6. Get a regular health check-up, especially if you are above 50 years of age.
7. If you have a family history of breast, ovary, stomach, colon or any such cancer, get yourself screened regularly. All you need is half a day, once a year.
8. Educate your family, friends, and community that cancer is not a death sentence. More than 70 per cent of cases are curable if detected early. Remember that a normal life after cancer treatment is possible.
What can you do?
All efforts, minor or major, can help spread the awareness around Cancer treatment and push people to shed their inhibitions and reach out for help. An effort as small as sharing a social media post can give someone a second chance at life.
World Cancer Day 2022
The theme for this year’s World Cancer Day is ‘Close the care gap’. Inequality exists in healthcare everywhere around the world and more so in a country like ours. When compared with the West, about 80 per cent of cancer cases are detected in late stages in India, which leads to the highest death rates. This can be explained through the inadequacy of the 5As of healthcare (accessibility, affordability, acceptability, approachability, and appropriateness) in Cancer treatment. Even though many private players are delivering the highest quality of care at the best cure rates and with the latest treatment protocols and technology, inaccessibility, unaffordability and unacceptability by the majority of the Indian population – middle-class and rural – remain some of the major challenges on ground.
The way forward
The use of information technology, the latest technologies such as artificial intelligence and uberisation of care can help make the treatment available to the patients at their fingertips. Through telehealth, a qualified oncologist can consult patients and treat them remotely even in the most remote and inaccessible areas. I believe a location-based service for Cancer care where care is made available to the patient at a hospital near them instead of them going to the hospital can work wonders in curbing the problem.
This article is authored by Dr. Vijay Karan Reddy, Consultant, Apollo Cancer Institute & AMPH Co 2022 student and edited by Vandana Yadav, Manager, Max Institute of Healthcare Management, Indian School of Business.