With a population of more than 1.4 billion as of 2023, India is known to be the land of unity in diversity. The nation consists of a variety of languages and people coming from different ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds and living together under the same national boundary.
However, with the increasing population, the incidence of life-threatening diseases like cancer has also seen rapid growth over the years.
That is why India’s fight against cancer is not just a medical campaign. It’s a difficult challenge that requires the combined efforts of the government along with non-profit organisations, private institutions, mass public support and certified medical authorities to minimize and finally eliminate the worries of cancer patients.
The good news is that the advancement in treatment techniques and the incorporation of medical expertise has made early detection of cancer no less than a magic trick making way for its early treatment and proper management in the initial stage itself.
Therefore, despite the challenges, timely identification of cancer makes it easier for the patient as well as medical experts to provide proper treatment. It ultimately results in faster recovery and minimizes the chances of deaths that occur due to cancer.
Moreover, India is now the hub of some of the best medical technologies along with a large number of well-equipped cancer speciality hospitals, expert oncologists and the availability of the latest surgical methods and tools.
All these factors ultimately contribute to making the lives of cancer patients easier.
By providing timely detection, and giving them the right treatment at the right time using the right techniques with pricing options that don’t cost patients a fortune, these factors have made an excellent contribution to making cancer less of a burden on the Indian population.
II. Cancer Prevalence in India
The fight against cancer is a significant concern and a major responsibility not only for the common people who might be at risk of catching the disease but also for the national health care system.
Moreover, even though we now have advanced techniques which have made early detection of cancer possible, the prevalence of the disease in India is still higher than in most other countries.
Major factors contributing to the rising cases of cancer in India include—
- Unhealthy lifestyle habits like tobacco intake, smoking and alcohol intake on a regular and more than recommended basis
- Environmental factors
- Spread of cancer through inherited genes
The most disheartening fact is that the prevalence of cancer is not limited to only a specific location or a specific cultural background. It is equally present across different areas, among people of all social and cultural backgrounds all over the nation.
According to a report by the National Centre of Biotechnology Information, 14,61,427 cancer cases were reported in 2022. Their research concluded that 1 out of 9 people in India was at a high risk of developing cancer during the course of their lifetime.
While cancer has a lot of varieties affecting different regions of your body, the following five categories were found to be the most popular among Indian people—
- Lung Cancer
- Oral Cancer
- Cervical Cancer
- Breast Cancer
- Gastric Cancer
Among these, while lung cancer is the most common category in the case of adult males, breast cancer has the most popularity among Indian adult females.
At the same time, most Indian children between the age range of 0 to 14 years were found to be suffering from lymphoid leukaemia (a type of cancer which affects the blood and bone marrow)
Further studies suggest that these cancer cases are likely to increase by approximately 12.8% by the end of 2025.
III. The Role of Awareness in Cancer Prevention
Cancer awareness programmes aim at promoting the prevention of cancer by utilising techniques which help to deliver the message of the importance of cancer reduction among the general population of the country.
Hence, by educating people and making them alert about the early signs and what steps to take if you are suspicious that somebody might be suffering from cancer, the overall risk can be minimized effectively.
If you’re wondering how cancer awareness programmes can potentially decrease the cancer burden of the country, here are a few examples:
Making People Aware Of The Risk Factors: The following lifestyle choices increase the chances of developing cancer:
- Poor diet
- Overuse of alcohol
- Lack of physical activity
- Exposure to carcinogens present in the external environment
Awareness programmes spread the message of the dangers associated with these so that people can make better decisions and avoid these habits to stay away from cancer.
Education Regarding Diet And Nutrition: Cancer awareness programmes educate people regarding the right dietary choices. It might include the avoidance of certain food items and encourage the intake of certain other foods ultimately helping in the reduction of cancers that happen because of poor diet.
Ujala Cygnus: Generating Hope For Cancer Patients Across 16 Indian Cities
Ujala Cygnus is a chain of hospitals devoted to helping India fight against cancer through its multiple cancer awareness programmes and other such initiatives.
Having a network of over 300 medical experts, 20 hospitals and more than 30 specialities spread across 16 cities of Uttarakhand, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi, Ujala Cygnus has taken some of the most significant steps to improve the condition of cancer patients in India.
Some important measures that they have taken under their cancer awareness programme include:
- Collaborations with schools and social institutions to initiate educational programmes regarding cancer
- Organization regular and free cancer screening camps
- Tobacco cessation programmes
- Spreading information regarding the importance of cancer vaccinations and other such preventive tips
IV. Early Detection and Screening
When the public is aware of what signs to look for to identify the presence of cancer, they are likely to take the right steps to identify and eliminate the disease at an early stage. The early detection of cancer ultimately results in better and faster treatment minimizing the risk of deaths due to cancer in the long term.
Cancer screening methods available in India include:
- Mammography for breast cancer
- Pap smears for cervical cancer
- And colonoscopy for colorectal cancer
However, most screening methods are only present in urban areas in private and government healthcare centres or hospitals. Likewise, the tests used for screening methods are challenged in rural areas due to limited healthcare centres and services.
V. Cancer Treatment Options
In India, the following primary cancer treatment options are currently available:
It’s for the removal of tissues or cancerous tumours from the body through open surgery which is a common method for cancer treatment.
Chemotherapy is a pharmaceutical treatment that employs potent chemicals to destroy your body’s rapidly growing cells since cancer cells grow far more quickly than most other cells in the body. There are numerous chemotherapy medications available, and different types of cancer can be treated with chemotherapy medications, either alone or in combination.
Also called radiation therapy, radiotherapy is one of the most powerful tools used to treat cancer. The two most popular forms of radiation therapy are:
- Internal Radiation Therapy (IRT)
- External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT)
Apart from these, three other popular cancer treatment options include targeted therapies like:
- Hormone Therapy: To remove hormone-sensitive cancer cells.
- Immunotherapy: Through this therapy, experts boost the body’s immune system to fight against cancer cells.
- Stem Cell Transplant: Experts replace damaged bone marrow with healthy cells.
VI. Advancements in Cancer Research
As technology is advancing, continuous research and studies on cancer have led to the discovery of the following advanced tools that can be used in the early detection and treatment of cancer.
Scientists never thought they could change the genetic code of living cells quickly and easily. But now it’s possible with CRISPR, which works like a pair of scissors that can precisely delete, add or edit specific pieces of DNA inside cells.
2. Artificial Intelligence
AI involves programming a computer to act, reason and learn. It’s great for finding patterns in large amounts of data, which is especially useful in research. Artificial intelligence is even being used to quickly analyse population-based cancer data and estimate the probability of certain cancers.
3. Robotic Surgery
Faster recovery and a faster return to normal life – robotic surgery can do it. For example, a person with prostate cancer needs a prostatectomy (removal of the prostate), and what used to require bone above the navel can now be done with robotic arms.
4. Immunotherapy And Precision Medicine
Immunotherapy has emerged as an effective and non-toxic treatment that fits perfectly with the principles of precision medicine, as it aims to treat patients based on patient-specific, immune-targeted molecular properties to maximise clinical benefit.
Antibodies acting as immune checkpoint inhibitors and vaccines containing tumour-specific antigens appear to be the most promising immunotherapeutic strategies, offering a significant survival advantage.
Although patients with localised disease and favourable prognostic features appear to benefit from such interventions, there is substantial evidence that survival benefits can be extended to patients with advanced disease.
VII. Government Initiatives and Policies
The government has played a vital role in cancer control. It is well known that the government has funded a large portion of the research that has defined the causes and treatments of cancer.
Governments can foster an environment where tobacco use is curbed and people maintain healthy levels of physical activity, a healthy body weight, and a healthy diet by enacting regulations, providing education, and offering support programmes.
Beyond the purview of traditional health-focused departments like health ministries, cancer prevention and the development of a culture of health are vital government missions. These agencies are responsible for environmental protection and occupational safety.
VIII. The Importance of Regular Check-ups
Regular visits to check-ups can help an individual to avoid any kind of health-related issues. Regular checkups can detect health issues and diseases early and give an individual the best chance of getting the right treatment quickly. Getting the screening and correct health care treatments can be a step towards living a healthier life.
To summarize, complete eradication of cancer from Indian society is not possible at present. However, Awareness campaigns and regular screenings along with the combined efforts of the public and the government can help in minimizing the cancer burden to a great extent.