The oncology department at the government hospital gets 100 to 120 patients every day in OP department.

The District General Hospital registered 2,800 new cancer cases last year. But the number hasn't shocked the government into upgrading the facilities at the only public sector cancer treatment centre in the district. The oncology department gets 100 to 120 patients every day in the outpatient department.

The registry here on the lines of the Indian Council of Medical Research began more than a year ago. But the hospital also has details of cancer patients and the follow-up programmes over the last four years. Nearly 250 to 300 new cases come up every month.

Despite the rise in the number of patients reaching here, the hospital is yet to become a comprehensive cancer treatment centre. The treatment follows three modes of treatment — medical oncology, surgical oncology and radiation oncology. Except for the chemotherapy treatment, both the surgical and radiation oncology are yet to be fully equipped with staff and machines that would make the hospital a full-fledged cancer care centre.

The General Hospital has four oncologists, one in medicine and three in radiation along with two units of tele-cobalt and one brachy therapy. The General Hospital had requested for a linear accelerator for radiation therapy, but the government is yet to respond.

“The facilities are eons away from being called state-of-the-art, but the patients are counselled and treated, and are referred to other centres only if the need be,” said one of the oncologists at the GH.

“Very few cases are referred to other centres,” he said. Surgical oncology cases are also taken up at the GH, where the general surgeon pitches in. Even with limited facilities, about 60 patients are given radiation therapy and 40 are given chemotherapy every day.

The GH has to refer all blood-related cancers to the Regional Cancer Centre in Thiruvananthapuram and all specialised oncology surgery cases too. “The absence of linear accelerator is felt acutely as it is of the most advanced equipment for precision treatment with fewer side-effects,” said Dr. Vinod Kumar, radiation oncologist attached to the GH. However, the two tele-cobalt units used here for years had given some very good results, he added.

Many patients reach the GH after taking treatment elsewhere, said Dr. Kumar. The GH also takes care of patients who do not have any bystander, he said.

A separate cancer ward at the hospital provides in-patient facility for 70 patients (35 male and 35 female). A chemotherapy ward provides treatment to 22-25 patients at a time and the hospital also has a neutropenia ward with eight beds, where patients with low blood count due to chemotherapy are kept in isolation.

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