With long-haul driving, odd-hour shifts and irregular physiological cycles linked to high-risk behaviour in the trucker community, an initiative has been launched, aiming to promote self-screening as a measure of prevention and early detection of oral cancer.
‘SCOPE – Self Screening and Care for Oral Cancer Prevention and Eradication -A Model for Long Distance Heavy Vehicle Drivers’, under lead investigator Sivaramakrishnan Muthanandam, Professor of Department of Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology and Oral Microbiology, Indira Gandhi Institute of Dental Sciences (IGIDS), a constituent unit of Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth (SBV), aims at designing and implementing a cost-effective model to prevent oral cancer among long-distance heavy vehicle drivers through self-examination (of the mouth), tele-reporting and tele-consultation.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)-aided project has a time-frame of two years.
Chief Minister N. Rangasamy formally launched the project at the Legislative Assembly complex on Sunday, in the presence of S.C. Parija, SBV Vice-Chancellor; Sathyanarayanan R. and Shantha Devi A., Vice-Principals of IGIDS; and project associates Janani Muthu, Suganya Rajaram, Kishore M. and A.V. Jothy Arvind.
According to Dr. Muthanandam, the truck drivers, as a marginalised community, face exhausting, unfavourable working conditions that cause lethargy and mental fatigue. It is to overcome these that they resort to habits such as excessive use of alcohol, tobacco and tobacco-related products.
It is evident that long hours of driving and infrequent shifts played a greater role in acquiring the habit. The presence of tobacco-related habits ranged from 49.2% to 83% among them, he noted.
“The relatively high use of tobacco among the truck drivers does point to the existence of certain risk factors specific to the occupation, which need further investigation. Oral cancer or squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity accounts for approximately 3% of all cancers worldwide, with increased incidence in developing countries. Early detection of oral malignant and potentially malignant disorders is very important in reducing morbidity and mortality,” Dr. Muthanandam said.
According to an IGIDS background note, tobacco has been identified as the causative factor for cancer, specifically oral cancer as well as a list of non-communicable diseases. Since the prevalence of tobacco-related habits is found to be high in this population, the prevalence of oral potentially malignant and malignant lesions is expected to be high. Very few studies have explored this data in Indian and other populations.
It is in this context that the IGIDS research team, under a principal investigator, proposed to design and test a feasible working model for oral cancer prevention through self-examination of the mouth.
Dr. Parija, Vice-Chancellor, SBV, pointed out that devising an alternative method for constant monitoring was important.
“Since they lack contact with health care professionals, self-examination and care would be the most feasible method for screening and monitoring for occurrence and progression of oral potentially malignant and malignant lesions,” Dr. Parija said.
Investigators believe that the project, on an ICMR fund of ₹15 lakh, will eventually lead to empowerment of the truck drivers.