Agartala: Medical Superintendent of Atal Bihari Vajpayee Regional Cancer Center, Dr Gautam Majumder said a recent survey conducted by the hospital found that the financial status of over 300 families in the state is slipping down to below the poverty line owing to expenses incurred for cancer treatment. Dr Majumder attributed this to the propensity of the patients to avail treatment outside the state.
“The detection of cancer cases increased over the years. Twenty years ago, the total number of cases detected annually was below five hundred but has today crossed the 3,000-mark. In 2021, 3,050 new cases were detected. It does not mean that the number of cancer patients has increased sixfold. The fact is, the detection mechanism of cancer has been strengthened across the state,” Dr Manjumder said.
On the financial issue, he said, a good number of patients tend to go outside the state for treatment. “Every year, we receive six to seven hundred cases who return to the state after spending lakhs of rupees in private hospitals out of the state. Among these six hundred, around three hundred families have been pushed below poverty line (BPL). This is an early phenomenon,” Dr Majumder said.
According to the survey conducted, as many as 20% of cancer patients sought health care outside the state, whereas 75% were being treated in the state. As many as 5% of cancer patients never receive any treatment, according to the survey.
Explaining the survey titled, “Monitoring Survey of Cancer Risk Factor and Health System Response in Tripura”, Dr Majumder said, “As per the findings of the survey, at any point of time, there are 12,000 active cancer cases in the state and last year, a total of 1,450 patients died. To control the incidences of cancer and mortality, a collective effort from all the stakeholders is required”.
One of the key reasons for cancer, Dr Majumder said, was smoking. “In Tripura, around 60 per cent of the males smoke and so far, the records of the hospital also tell that lung cancer is most prevalent among the male patients. Apart from that, cancer in the oesophagus is also found in decent numbers. Consumption of dry fish is a dominant reason behind this,” he said.
The survey says that 45 per cent of the women use tobacco but not through smoking. “The women necessarily use tobacco for chewing with betel leaves. In some areas, women also smoke but these are very negligible when compared to the overall picture. The most prevalent types of cancer in women are cervix, breast, ovary and gallbladder,” Dr Majumder said.
According to him, for every nine cancer-infected males there are six females. The ratio is recorded to be 9:6 here in Tripura. “To control cancer, I would like to request the state government to impose a blanket ban on tobacco substances and people are advised to go for a complete cessation of such substances. Less physical activities and consumption of junk food and alcohol in high quantities are also triggering factors of the disease,” Dr Majumder added.
The senior doctor also sought support from the state government for strengthening the network of ‘Non-Communicable Disease Clinics’ so that detection of patients becomes easier.
“Today, only 30 per cent of the rural hospitals are sending us suspected cancer cases. In the case of district hospitals, 60 per cent of health institutions are responsive. These numbers need to improve. Moreover, chemotherapy facilities should be decentralized in district hospitals and two more small-scale cancer treatment facilities are needed to be established in the state, preferably in South Tripura and North Tripura districts,” he added.
Dr Majumder also called for community-based awareness. “We have seen that only five out of one person knows about cancer in Tripura. People may have heard about cancer but they have no idea about the risk factors associated with cancer and symptoms,” he said.
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