ICMR-aided project to eradicate oral cancer among Narikuravars

Indian Council of Medical Research allocates ₹14 lakh for the initiative

Published - February 14, 2020 11:40 pm IST - PUDUCHERRY

The Indira Gandhi Institute of Dental Sciences has launched an ICMR-aided project for oral cancer eradication among the Narikuravar population. Special Arrangement

The Indira Gandhi Institute of Dental Sciences has launched an ICMR-aided project for oral cancer eradication among the Narikuravar population. Special Arrangement

The Indira Gandhi Institute of Dental Sciences (IGIDS), Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth, has initiated an oral cancer eradication project funded by the Indian Council of Medical Research, for Narikuravar tribal population.

The Model for Oral Cancer Eradication (MOCE) project for prevention and screening of oral pre-cancer and cancer among Narikurava tribal population aims to design and test a cost-effective sustainable model for screening among the Narikurava population in and around the region.

The ICMR has allocated ₹14 lakh for the project, which has a three-year timeframe.

“We are launching the project among the target community in the city. We will later expand the scope of intervention to Narikuravars in Villupuram and Cuddalore,” said M. Senthil, professor and team leader, Public Health Dentistry, at IGIDS.

There are an estimated 150 Narikuravar families in the Lawspet settlement.

Doctors pointed out that oral cancer indices and mortality show major differences worldwide, but the highest incidence and prevalence are noted in India and neighbouring countries, where it ranks among the top three types of cancer.

The real challenge in oral cancer lies in early diagnosis and prevention. Widening inequities in oral health status and treatment needs exist among different social groupings. Groups of people even today live in isolation either geographically or socially with their traditional values and beliefs.

They are commonly referred to as tribal population and are considered to be the autochthonous (indigenous) people of the land and the Narikurava tribal community is indigenous to Tamil Nadu.

Common issues

They face common but consequential issues like poverty, illiteracy, communication problems, poor healthcare and social discrimination. A preliminary survey on oral health status and awareness about the oral hygiene measures of Narikuravar tribes, found that their oral health knowledge and status was very poor and needed greater attention of dentists.

This population also does not avail oral health services and tends to follow the traditional indigenous way of cure. Till date no data is available on the prevalence of oral cancer among this special population.

A study a while ago reported that Narikurava women had low rates of allopathic healthcare utilisation as they face stigma and discrimination while accessing healthcare.

There was also wide long-term use of smokeless tobacco both among males and females equally. Considering this, the prevalence of cancerous, or at the least precancerous lesions are expected to be high is this group, Dr. Senthil said.

M.O.H.F. Shahjahan, Transport Minister, recently launched the initiative, which is headed by Sivaramakrishnan Muthanandam, associate professor from Department of Oral Pathology & Microbiology, IGIDS.

Jananni Muthu, Vezhavendan N. and Suganya M. are co-investigators in the MOCE project.

Bruno, managing trustee, Samugam Trust, Gopal Pillai, Chairman, Mother’s Trust, NGO, Santha Devy, Vice-Principal, IGIDS, and Arun Varghese, a representative from Tamil Nadu IDA branch, also participated.

While Dr. Muthanandam explained the basis and aim of the programme, Mr. Bruno and Mr. Gopal Pillai emphasised the importance of the screening project.

A team comprising dentists and interns from IGIDS has started preliminary screening for oral cancer among a small group of the population.

The drive is being coordinated by M. Kishore, field coordinator. The screening programme for oral cancer detection and prevention will be conducted every Thursday by the team at the Narikuravar Colony, Lawspet.

Investigators believe that the results of the project will facilitate designing a sustainable, feasible cost-effective screening model for oral cancer. They also feel that there is scope for expansion of this model into other oral health care sectors and upscaling it for screening the population in other healthcare areas as well.

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