Notwithstanding technological advances, cancer still remains stigmatised and maligned, a mindset that needs to be changed, senior oncologists say. On the occasion of World Cancer Day on Tuesday, specialists urged the public to treat cancer as any other illness and acknowledge the role of early detection.

Close to 10 lakh new cancer cases are detected annually in the country, and nearly 60 per cent cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage. According to oncologists, fatalities could be avoided through early detection and by “raising a collective voice against cancer by individuals, organisations and the government”.

Says Dr. Mohana Vamsy, founder and chief oncologist, Omega Hospitals: “Cancer patients are still treated as untouchables. Once detected, people think patients will die which is wrong. On occasions, patients are deserted by close relatives. There is a need for a concerted and consistent awareness campaign on cancer.”

Many acknowledge that cancer continues to remain a “closet” issue. “There is a need to come out of this attitude of not talking openly about cancer. There are many kinds of cancers that can be detected early,” says Dr. P. Raghu Ram, director, Ushalakshmi Breast Cancer Foundation.

“Women are the most under-diagnosed lot. Cervical and breast cancers can be treated,” he adds.

Dr. T. Kannan, Director of State-run MNJ Cancer Hospital, advocates targeted diagnostic drives in rural areas.

“There is a large under-diagnosed population of cancer patients in rural areas who come to us at an advanced stage,” he adds.

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