The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cancer care by handbook
- Oncologists meet to set guidelines on standardised treatment

A Calcutta-Mumbai hotline has been established, with the city’s oncologists joining hands with their counterparts from Mumbai’s Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH), to develop “a standardised treatment for cancer”.

Oncologists, alarmed at the rising incidence of “botched-up” cases (blamed on the multifarious routes to cancer treatment), say a standardised recommended course has become essential now.

Some of the city’s cancer-specialists went to Mumbai earlier this week to take part in a two-day “evidence-based medicine (EBM)” sensitisation programme, where they were given a handbook by TMH director K.A. Dinshaw. The handbook — based on evidence from data collected over the years — could prove a vital tool in cancer treatment, say Calcutta’s oncologists.

“I am sure that once the standard guidelines are followed, there won’t be any need for patients from Calcutta to rush to Mumbai,” TMH chief surgical oncologist Rajan Badwe told Metro over phone from Mumbai. “The importance of the handbook cannot be over-emphasised,” he added.

Nilratan Sirkar Medical College and Hospital radiotherapy departmental head Kalyan Bhattacharya adds: “A comprehensive policy and guideline for treatment is of paramount importance.”

Some of the guidelines say:

çAll treatment should be based on solid scientific evidence. Personal experience should not be accepted as a means of treatment

çChemotherapy dosage should depend on a patient’s weight and total surface area of the body

çA common-modality approach (surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, hormonal therapy) should be applied, as applicable to an individual case, while dealing with breast cancer

çIn cancer of the head and neck, surgery and radiotherapy have a greater role than chemotherapy

çCancer surgery is best conducted by surgeons trained in recognised speciality hospitals

çPre-treatment opinion of an oncologist is mandatory

Oncologists who did not make the Mumbai trip also felt that “standardisation of cancer treatment was very important”. As Saroj Gupta put it: “The treatment has to be organised and EBM has to be its basis. We cannot allow doctors to treat one particular type of cancer differently in different places.”

The Association of Radiation Oncologists of India has already taken up the matter. “We will ensure that the guidelines don’t remain just on paper,” said Association secretary and Indian Medical Association Bengal chapter president Subir Ganguly.

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