Focus on improving primary healthcare to detect cancer early, says expert

Anil K. D’Cruz is the first Indian oncologist to be directly elected as president of the Union for International Cancer Control, Geneva, by member organisations

Published - October 15, 2020 04:03 am IST - CHENNAI

Strengthening of primary healthcare in the country, taking the message of prevention and early detection of cancer to the people and focusing on common cancers so that there could be cost-effective manoeuvres for early diagnosis are among the focus areas for Anil K. D’Cruz, director, Oncology Services, Apollo Cancer Centre, who has been elected as president of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), Geneva.

Dr. D’Cruz, who was on the UICC board of directors for six years, according to a press release, is the first Indian oncologist to be directly elected by member organisations as its president. He said the UICC was the largest voice of cancer control and has 1,200 members across 172 countries. Various academic institutions, agencies and NGOs are part of the UICC, which works to unite and support the community, reduce the global burden of cancer, promote greater equity, improve control and see that the disease continues to stay on the world health and developmental agenda.

“We must realise that cancer is growing in our country.We now have figures of about 100 to 110 per 100,000 population as opposed to the developed world where it is about 350 per 100,000 population. But we must realise that our population pyramid is so structured that the majority of our countrymen are less than the age of 30. As our population grows older and lifestyles improve, the incidence of cancer will also increase,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“While a lot of high-end hospitals are coming up, I believe we also have to strengthen primary healthcare. We must put emphasis on early detection, prevention and this should straddle all non-communicable diseases (NCD) and not just cancer in isolation. If NCDs can be screened early, we can prevent a lot of problems,” he said.

He said the three commonest cancers in India were those of the head and neck, breast and cervix. “About 30% of the cancers are head and neck, predominantly because of tobacco use,” Dr. D’Cruz said. “Unfortunately, 80% of patients at present are in stage-3 and stage-4. If we have patients coming at an early stage, the success rate of the cure is upwards of 90%. These three cancers are preventable if accessible to detected early,” he added.

Prathap C. Reddy, chairman, Apollo Hospitals Group, highlighted the need to create infrastructure in the country which was on a par with the rest of the world so that people need not go abroad for treatment.

Noting that NCDs such as heart diseases, cancer, diabetes and stroke accounted for 80% of deaths, he stressed on early detection to save lives.

Preetha Reddy, vice-chairperson, Apollo Hospitals Group, also participated.

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