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`Early detection of cancer in the community a must'

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V. Shanta
V. Shanta

Staff Reporter

V. Shanta calls for separate cancer care network

Thiruvananthapuram: Cancer screening in the community should be integrated with routine health delivery, V. Shanta, Magsaysay award winner and chairperson, Adayar Cancer Institute, Chennai, has said.

She was delivering the 14th Sri Chithira Tirunal Memorial Lecture on `Five decades of cancer care' here on Saturday. The lecture was organised by the Sri Chithira Tirunal Smaraka Samithi.

Scientific advances in tissue diagnostics, enhanced imaging facilities and multi-disciplinary approach in treatment have distinctly reduced the mortality from cancer.

However, the thrust of all cancer control programmes should be on early detection and in getting the people to hospitals early.

The definition of early disease has changed and its focus is no longer clinical diagnosis, but molecular diagnosis, she said. Advances in cytogenetics and molecular genetics have made it possible for doctors to trace the beginnings of cancer long before it becomes visible or palpable.

But screening of the asymptomatic population for cancer has always been a challenge. Doctors should be able to go to the community rather than wait for the people to come to the hospital, Dr. Shanta said. Village health nurses and a separate cancer care network with the involvement of self-help groups, non-governmental organisations and cancer survivors' group can go a long way in dispelling the myths about cancers and in early detection of the disease in the community, she said.

Enhanced imaging technologies may have led to increased expertise in interpretation of the disease but it has also pushed up the cost of cancer diagnosis, Dr. Shanta said.

The concept of cure has also changed and the accent is now on organ conservation and long-term survival through a treatment management plan that is based on the biology of the disease. Paediatric therapeutic oncology has been a very gratifying experience and almost 80 per cent of paediatric cancer cases can now be cured, she said. Just as palliative care has grown as a specialty to help the terminally ill die with dignity, the quality of life of the cancer survivor should also be improved through patient support services and concessions in medical expenses, Dr. Shanta said. Governor R.L. Bhatia presided over the function. Uthradom Tirunal Marthanda Varma, head of the royal family of erstwhile Travancore, was present .

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