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Around 80% of cancer patients who come into Narayana Health suffer from advanced stages of cancer, whose chances of survival are very less.

Most of the patients have told doctors that they were scared of approaching hospitals and getting diagnosed with cancer. The fear and ignorance, leading to delayed diagnosis and treatment, has increased the mortality rate among cancer patients.

Keeping these issues in mind, Narayana Health, in association with the Mazumdar Shaw Medical Foundation, launched a rural cancer surveillance programme on Tuesday.

Inaugurating the programme, Dr Moni Abraham Kuriokose, Head of the Department, Head and Neck Surgery Department, said "We get around 1,800 head and neck cancer cases annually. Of them, around 40% are mouth cancers, 20% breast cancers and around 30% cervical cancers. Most of these cases come in at very advanced stages, reducing the chances of their survival."

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, CMD, Biocon, launches the Reach Out van as part of cancer surveillance initiavtive by Narayana Health on Tuesday —DC Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, CMD, Biocon, launches the Reach Out van as part of cancer surveillance initiavtive by Narayana Health on Tuesday —DC

The patients, especially those from rural areas, refuse to visit hospitals, even though they are provided with transport facilities, he said. Awareness in rural areas is very low, which has led to delayed detection and treatment, he said. "Through this programme, we aim to bridge this gap," he said.

The Reach Out van that will be used in the programme was flagged off by Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Chairman and MD, Biocon. The van, which will be manned by three senior doctors, six junior doctors and two social workers from Narayana Health, will go across three villages – Jigani, Anekal and Attibele.

Dr Kuriokose said, "The van will educate the community at large about early signs and symptoms of mouth and throat cancers. The prevalence of these cancers is high because of increasing tobacco chewing and smoking habits in these areas. Later we plan to take the programme to other parts of the state."

Dr Devi Shetty, chairman, Narayana Health, said, "Over 70% of India’s population lives in rural India, but has access to only one-third of the hospital beds. Also, diagnosing and treating head and neck cancer requires specialist doctors. Since 80% of the specialist doctors live in urban parts of the country catering to around 20% of the population, early diagnosis of the condition in rural India is difficult.

"The worrying fact is that close to 75% of cancers are diagnosed only at stage IV, resulting in poor rate of treatment and survival. This initiative is a step towards reaching out to the population living in villages to ensure that everyone has access to timely diagnosis and quality healthcare."

Deccan Chronicle
20 November 2013,
Bengaluru, India

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