Going by figures, cancer of the head and the neck is increasing alarmingly in the city. Yet, the awareness of the development is low. In 1999, city oncologists reported 4,000 head and neck cancer patients, which in the past three years rose to settle at about 13,000.
Realising the gravity of the situation, a number of oncologists are meeting to discuss ways to sensitise experts and the public on the causes of and the particular forms of the disease.
The most disturbing fact, according to experts, is “wrong diagnosis and treatment” of patients suffering from cancer of the oral cavity, tongue, nose, pharynx and ear, but treated for several months as cases of infection or simple ulcer at the most.
Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute (CNCI) is one hospital that received over 6,000 head and neck patients alone last year. About 60 per cent of such cases were in the advanced stages, because of wrong diagnosis and treatment over a long period. The other patients turned up at Medical College and Hospital, SSKM and NRS hospitals, along with a few private hospitals, but only a few at an early stage.
“The figures are soaring and so is the rate of inadequate diagnosis. We were surprised to get so many patients last year, who were suffering from cancer, but were treated for other problems by qualified medical practitioners,” says the brain behind the doctors’ meet, Aniruddha Dam, head of department of ENT (Head and Neck Oncology), CNCI.
Doctors say the cancer of the head and neck is caused mostly by chewing of pan masala, pan, tobacco and consumption of other tobacco-related products, all on the top of the charts among the qualified urban population of the city.