Cancer Care in India headed in the right direction – Experts

Pune 7 May 2019 : With improving outcomes,  survival rates and availability of advanced technologies and onco-care experts , Cancer Care in India is headed in the right direction. However the pace needs to pick up with innovative strategies to remove the disparities which exist in availability of treatment of cancer care across the country opined various experts at a seminar on “Shaping the future of Cancer Care” in India organized by Sahyadri Hospitals at Hotel Grand Sheraton Bund Garden Road on Saturday. The program was organized to mark the launch of advanced Onco-Radiation Center at Sahyadri Super Specialty Hospital Hadapsar . With this, all cancer related treatment facilities will now be available to patients under a single roof.

Padma Bhushan Dr S.H Advani , Director Medical Oncology Jaslok Hospital , Dr A.K D’Cruz , former director Tata Memorial Hospital , Dr C.S Pramesh Director Tata Memorial Hospital , Dr Sudeep Gupta Director ACTREC ( Tata Memorial Hospital Kharghar)  , Senior Neurologist Dr R.S Wadia , Dr Jayashree Apte Executive Director Sahaydri Hospitals , Dr Shona Nag Director Oncology Sahyadri Hospitals and Dr Charudutt Apte , Chairman Sahyadri Hospitals were present on the occasion. In a panel discussion that followed Manoj Kumar , Vandana Gupta , Dr Belliapa,  along with Dr S.H Adavani , Dr A.K D’Criz, Dr C.S Pramesh deliberated on Cancer Care in India – are we headed in the right direction”. The panel discussion was moderated by Dr Sudeep Gupta.

Dr S.H Advani Director Medical Oncology Jaslok Hospital said that with landmark advances in medical oncology the survival rates are increasing. People in the cities are coming at early stages which never used to happen before. With targeted therapies, immunotherapies and newer treatments  we have moved from group to personalized treatment. But what remains as a challenge is education, finances and disparity between the cities and rural areas  in the availability of healthcare  .

Citing the example of National Cancer Grid Dr C.S Pramesh Director Tata Memorial Hospital said that equalization of quality of care is what is needed to improve the outcomes. We need uniform standards of cancer care throughout the country. Public awareness and education is crucial to make a stage shift of current advanced stage of presentation to early stage of presentation to reduce the rate of mortality.

Giving a presentation on Head and Neck Cancers in India  Dr A.K D’Cruz , former director Tata Memorial Hospital said that head and neck cancer is the number one cancer in our country primarily because of consumption of tobacco and because tobacco is a socially accepted custom. Most of the patients come to us at an advanced stage but this is a paradox as this cancer has a very well defined tumor progression model and goes through various stages before one gets full blown cancer. So it is amenable to primary and secondary prevention and yet 2/3 of Cancers we see in the country are locally advanced. Citing the example of Bhutan he said that while banning tobacco is a good idea but it may not be enough.  We also need to look at other strategies to control and prevent these cancers. Apart from pictorial warnings, counseling, education we need raising of taxes and so we need to pitch with policy makers. We need stronger policies and legislation to raise taxes to control the use of low end products like tobacco.

In the panel discussion that followed , the experts agreed that the problem of cancer in our country is huge and we need innovative strategies to ensure uniform care for all and remove disparities that exists . Dr Advani opined that while doing so we should not loose sight of value based care and train our people to practice with empathy , compassion , strong work ethics for patient satisfaction.

In his welcome address Dr Charudutt Apte , leading neurosurgeon and Chairman  Sahyadri Hospitals said that our mission is that we  want to make specialty healthcare available  accessible , accountable and affordable . We are one of the few groups  that have volunteered and partnered with the Government in their endeavor to make tertiary care available to the poor. We have dedicated one of our hospitals exclusively for the Ayushman Bharat Scheme.  .

Dr Shona Nag said that the advanced cancer care center has been  designed to deliver best of treatment based on the three main pillars of oncology namely surgical oncology, medicine oncology and radiation oncology under one roof and also the focus on providing holistic care covering Physical & Psychological Rehabilitation, Supportive services like Patient support groups and Home based Palliative Care

The team at the cancer centre includes, Director Oncology, Dr. Shona Nag, Radiation Oncologist Dr. Sanjay MH, Medical Oncologists Dr. Tushar Patil and Dr. Rahul Kulkarni, Surgical Oncologists Dr. Vinod Gore and Dr. Joy  Ghose, Associate Consultant and Dr. Almas Pathan, Senior Registrar (Radiation Oncology) Dr. Surya Prakash Vakina and Medical Physicist Mr. Kantaram Darekar.