The Health Department, in cooperation with public and private cancer-care centres and the medical colleges, is drawing up a major project to take cancer-control activities to the grassroots level by opening early cancer-detection centres in at least one hospital in every district.

At these centres, the services of oncologists will be available at least once a week in the initial phase. The centres will coordinate with cancer hospitals and also function as a follow-up treatment centre for cancer patients.

State- and district-level committees will be set up, with representatives of Health Services hospitals, senior health officials and doctors from public and private cancer hospitals to draw up the project.

“We intend to start the early cancer detection centres by July-August. We will also be forming core oncology committees to give training in early cancer detection to physicians at community health centres and to draw up standard treatment protocols. The idea is to make cancer-detection and -care services easily accessible to people so that there is no delay in diagnosis or in initiating treatment,” Health Minister P.K. Sreemathy said here on Wednesday.

At a meeting with oncology experts from various public and private cancer-care centres, she sought the cooperation of the private hospitals in providing the services of oncologists to the proposed early cancer-detection centres.

Ms. Sreemathy pointed out that district-level cancer-care and -control facilities needed to be augmented because people often delayed seeking diagnosis and treatment because of the time and money that they had to spend to reach specialised cancer-treatment centres far from their home districts.

Poor awareness

The meeting was told that cancer awareness was poor among health-care providers and in 15-20 per cent of the cases, the delay in diagnosis had been at the physician's level. Mismanagement of cancer at the primary andthe secondary levels was often responsible for the bad prognosis in many cases where the cancer could have been curable, B. Satheesan, Director of Malabar Cancer Centre, said.

It was pointed out that even while using accredited social health activists of the National Rural Health Mission and voluntary agencies for disseminating information on early cancer detection and treatment among the public, cancer-control activities could be sustainable only by strengthening and equipping the public health system.

Doctors from several major private cancer-treatment centres promised the cooperation of their institutions in helping the government with cancer-control activities.

Health Secretary (Medical Education) Usha Titus; Director of Medical Education V. Geetha; M. Krishnan Nair, founder-director of Regional Cancer Centre (RCC); K. Ramdas, medical superintendent of RCC; and representatives from all government medical colleges attended the meeting.