Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Ghulam Nabi Azad, on Sunday said the cancer treatment centres across the different states will be connected online to facilitate country’s telemedicine services and medical education.

The Health ministry is in the process of establishing ’OncoNET’ (India), a network connecting 27 regional cancer centres and 100 peripheral centres to facilitate telemedicine services and medical education, the minister said.

“The peripheral centres at the district level would initially be linked to the regional cancer centres,” Azad said during a function at Tata Memorial Hospital here.

The Minister said that the Centre has allocated Rs.2,400 crore for National Cancer Control programme during the 11th Five Year Plan, which is ten times more than the previous plan and the focus is on community based cancer prevention and control strategies.

“We have about 250 institutions in the country having cancer treatment facilities and special focus is on early detection of breast and cervical cancer,” he said. “I am confident that once the revised National Cancer Control Programme is initiated, early detection and management of cancers in women would be accessible and affordable at the district level in the country,” he added.

Noting that the most effective ways of prevention of breast cancer is Self-Breast Examination (SBE) and early detection, Azad said there is lack of effort on the part of doctors to promote awareness among women.

Mr. Azad also said, the vaccines targeted against Human papilloma virus (HPV), one of the causative factors for cervical cancer, was being evaluated for efficacy and safety by Indian Council of Medical Research.

He asked the doctors to critically evaluate the new advancement in technologies and its cost effectiveness.

Mr. Azad said it was a matter of concern that about two-third of the cancer patients are diagnosed only at an advanced stage when it is well established that cancer can be controlled if diagnosed early.

Speaking on the occasion, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, Anil Kakodkar who is also chairman of the council of the Tata Memorial Hospital said, effective and affordable technologies are needed to the rural and remote areas.

Since the high cost of imported equipment creates a barrier to the low cost technology “we need some protection or policy thrust so that it does not happen, Mr. Kakodkar said.

At the occasion Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH) launched its Mobile Outreach programme jointly taken up by Women’s Cancer Initiative.

The outreach programme will cover about five lakh population in Chembur, Mankhurd and Govandi slums in Mumbai, Dr Rajendra Badwe, Director, TMH said.

Bhabha Atomic Research Centre Director, Srikumar Banerjee said, an indigenously developed technology for cancer treatment - ‘Bhabhatron’- will soon be made available in large numbers.