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Home News and Update Year 2011 New Drug is Soldier’s Last Hope

New Drug is Soldier’s Last Hope

Times of India
31 May 2011
By Omkar Khandekar
Mumbai, India

For 60-year-old Mangal Singh, the swelling at the side of the neck that developed last December was just another malaise. It was only after it persisted for more than two months that Singh, who retired as an army naik in 1991, thought of consulting a doctor.

After a series of references, he came from Dehradun to S L Raheja Hospital in Mahim. A preliminary check-up and a few scans revealed the worst: throat cancer. The culprit, according to oncologist Dr Dinesh Pendharkar, is Singh’s obsession with cigarettes for more than 40 years.

What makes Singh’s story different is the changing regimen of treatment for head and neck cancers. Hitherto, treatment was limited to surgery and radiation. But now, doctors have added a drug as a prelude. Reports of its efficacy were published in the Lancet in January. “The drug is administered intravenously through a drip,” Dr Pendharkar said.

It may be the last option for Singh, who started smoking when he was 16. “It increased when I joined the army; I smoked one packet a day,” Singh said from his hospital bed. “One day in 2005, I was wearing my uniform and smoking when I dozed off. The cigarette fell off my hand on my uniform and burnt it. That day I decided never to touch one again.” But the belated measure obviously did not help.

“The damage caused by tobacco consumption is permanent,” said Dr Pendharkar, who has been involved in various anti-tobacco movements for two decades. “The case of Singh is particularly bad because of his excessive consumption and late diagnosis.”

Statistics establish that around 85% of head and neck cancers are the result of tobacco consumption. Around 5,000,000 children are habituated to tobacco each year, with the number increasing at an alarming rate.

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