Current estimates of the incidence of cancer in India by the WHO and other health agencies say that there are 1 million new patients each year. Cancer has profound social and economic consequences for people in India, often leading to family impoverishment.
A study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer says that the incidence of cancer will double in the next 20 years, to 1.7 million new patients a year. This is also supported by statistics from two other credible sources: the National Cancer Registry Programme established in 1981 by the Indian Council for Medical Research, and the Million Deaths Study, a survey of the causes of premature death conducted by the Center for Global Health Research.
Women are partiucularly affected. Breast cancer is the single largest cause of death among women today. Nearly 150,000 women die from it every year. Cancer is not a new problem. As early as 1946, the Bhore Committee drew attention to cancer as a threat in India, and made recommendations for establishing accessible services so people wouldn’t have to travel long distances for cancer care.
Epidemiological studies have shown that 70- 90 per cent of all cancers are environmental, and emanate from lifestyle related factors, which are the most important but also most preventable. Many of the most common high-impact cancers – breast, cervical, oral and colorectal cancers – can be affordably and accessibly detected early through screening; the potential for recovery is high if diagnosed at an early stage and appropriate treatment provided.
A leading physician pointed out, we may not understand cancer, and we may not find a cure for some kinds of cancer. But an ounce of prevention is a worth more than a million pounds of cure. This is why it is imerative to ACT now: heighen public awareness, build the capacity for diagnosis and create treatment options. Let us all – government, healthcare professionals, policy makers and health experts – combine our efforts in doing so.
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