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Home News and Update Year 2010 Tongue & Throat Cancers up Among Youth

Tongue & Throat Cancers up Among Youth

Indian Express
09 December 2010
By Anuradha Mascarenhas

City Anchor Surgeons Say Ban on Plastic Sachets for Gutkha Could Help Curb Addiction
JUST how bad can eating gutkha be? Disastrous, as the case of Rehan, 22, shows. Surgeons had to remove the entire tongue of the Pandharpur youth who used to consume as many as 24 packets of gutkha every day, right from the time he was in school.

Rehan can only mumble monosyllables today.

Dr Kamlesh Bokil, cancer surgeon at Ruby Hall Clinic, says they had no option but to perform a glossectomy (removal of tongue) at such a young age. “Still we are not too sure if the spread of the cancer has been restricted. I feel sad when I have to treat such young patients who are addicted to gutkha."

Cancer surgeons say the removal of part of cheek, jaw, tongue and even neck is common nowadays, and that is why they are fervently hoping that the Supreme Court order banning the use of plastic satchets for gutkha will make a difference.

"The incidence of head and neck cancer is really high and most of us treat at least 10-15 patients in the age group of 30-35 every month," says Dr Sujai Hegde, cancer surgeon at Sahyadri Hospital.

The apex court had made it clear that after March 1, 2011, plastic packaging of such tobacco products shall not be permitted in the national capital region. "We hope the ruling is effective," says Hegde, even as he points out the ban on plastic bags of a particular thickness did not make much of a difference. The surgeons, however, agree that it will at least be a step towards restricting the use of gutkha.

A group of doctors dedicated to creating awareness on the issue have roped in filmmakers Sumitra Bhave and Anil Sukhtankar to direct a short film that will be screened at schools from January next year.

ENT specialist Dr Vandana Joshi, who has set up PACE (Prevent Addictions through Child Education) along with other doctors, points out that youngsters often get attracted by the colourful packaging of gutkha. The ban will at least restrict the use, she says, adding that their film will be screened at schools from January next year.

The film is aimed at emotionally connecting with the schoolchildren to make them aware of the ill-effects of tobacco and related substances. "We need novel ways to stop children from consuming gutkha," agrees cancer surgeon Dr Sanjay Deshmukh.

At least 40 per cent of 100 cancer cases in the city are related to head and neck cancers. And 12 of this 40 per cent are related to cancer of the tongue and 14 throat.

"We are coming across new cancers of the mouth and lesions that did not occur ten years ago," Deshmukh says.

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