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Home News and Update Year 2011 ICMR Wants Govt To Declare Cancer a Notifiable Disease

ICMR Wants Govt To Declare Cancer a Notifiable Disease

Times of India
10 November 2011
By Kounteya Sinha
New Delhi India

India recorded 9.8 lakh new cases of cancer last year, an increase of about 80,000 cases as compared to 2009.

The worrying trend was discussed at the annual meeting of the National Cancer Registry Programme in Guwahati last week, in which top cancer specialists from across the country, Union health ministry officials and experts from the Indian Council of Medical Research took part. The figure was reached after tabulating results from over 27 cancer registries, but the ministry is still to make the findings public.

ICMR Wants Govt To Declare Cancer a Notifiable Disease

The ICMR, concerned about the rising numbers, has urged the Union health ministry to make cancer a “notifiable disease”. Currently, highly infectious diseases like plague, polio, H5N1 (bird flu) and H1N1 (swine flu) figure on the list. Cancer may become the first non–communicable disease to be bracketed in the category.

Sources in the ministry told TOI that Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was seriously considering the proposal. “If cancer is made notifiable, like many other Western countries, every case will have to be reported and no cases can be left uncared for. Now, doctors sometimes don’t look at a patient, citing existing burden. That can’t happen if it is made notifiable. We will also know exactly how many new cases are affecting India. I think the 9.8 lakh new cases is just a fraction of the actual burden,” Dr G KRath, head of the department of oncology at the All–India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), said. “We have noticed some important changes in the cancer pattern. In the northeastern states, stomach, lung and oesophagus cancers are common. In villages, breast cancer rates are only onefourth of those in cities. However, in cities like Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai and Bangalore, breast cancer tops the list.”

About 50 top scientists who are part of the scientific advisory body of the National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research (Bangalore), including professor Rath, director of Tata Memorial Hospital Dr R A Badwe and ICMR director–general Dr V M Katoch, feel cancer should be made notifiable.

Early Action is The Key

In India, four lakh people die of cancer every year

Health ministry data shows 25 lakh patients in the country

By 2015, the number of new cases is expected to cross 15 lakh

It is the second leading cause of death in developed countries and third in India

ICMR has urged the Union ministry to make cancer a “notifiable disease”

Four lakh people die of cancer every year in India

Dr Badwe said, “Once cancer becomes a notifiable disease, we will be able to appropriately document its actual magnitude and quality.”

Dr Katoch said, “All hospitals aren’t bound to report cancer cases. Besides, our official data on cancer burden depends mostly on government hospitals. Once the ministry makes the announcement, it will become the duty of all hospitals — both public and private —to document and report every case of cancer.”

In India, four lakh people die of cancer every year. The ministry data shows 25 lakh patients in the country at any point in time.

While cancer is the third biggest killer in India, it is the second leading cause of death in developed countries, accounting for 21% (2.5 million) of all mortality. In developing countries, cancer is the third biggest cause of death and accounts for 9.5% (3.8 million) of mortality.

If detected early, the disease is curable. In fact, the results of treatment in stages I and II (early stages) are about 80%. In late stages (stages III and IV), the results go down to less than 20%. In India, about 70% patients are in advanced stage of the disease, making treatment tough.

By 2015, the number of new cases in India is expected to cross 15 lakh. Among Indian males, lung, head and neck cancers are the most common, while breast and cervical cancers are the most frequent in women.

The health ministry, which recently rolled out a national programme on cancer across 100 districts in 21 states, is hoping that cancer cases can be detected early and chemotherapy provided free of cost. “We have been warned by WHO that India is the next hub for cancer. The 38 new cancer centres that have been planned will be linked to district hospitals. Auxiliary nurse midwife personnel are being trained to identify warning signs of cancer, while doctors in primary health centres are undergoing training to diagnose cases early,” Azad told TOI.

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