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Doctors explore ways to increase access to cancer treatment

To ensure access, resources have to be created, that are to be shared for their optimal use

Subhajoy Roy | Published 06.08.23, 06:28 AM
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Representational image

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Cancer treatment has to be more accessible, several doctors and health policymakers said at a panel discussion in the city on Saturday.

To ensure this access, resources have to be created, they said. Many doctors spoke about the need to share the resources for their optimal use.


Doctors treating cancer said expensive equipment often lies waste in some hospitals, while there is severe demand at others.

The Telegraph reported on Friday that the projected incidence of cancer in Bengal for 2025 is 1.21 lakh cases but the state has barely 2,000 beds in government and private hospitals to treat cancer patients.

A large number of patients from Bengal still go to south India, Mumbai or Delhi for treatment. But many private hospitals in the city are setting up cancer units. The state government, too, is expanding its facilities.

“Cancer treatment has to be more accessible. Patients should not have to run from one hospital to another,” said an official of the state health department.

Better access means creating more resources, spreading them across geographical locations and using the equipment more judiciously.

“A radiotherapy machine can administer radiation to 70 patients daily if it is run in multiple shifts. My conversation with doctors working in Bengal revealed that not more than 30 patients are administered the therapy in government hospitals in a day. In contrast, private hospitals are generally giving radiation therapy to about 70 persons in a day,” said Pankaj Chaturvedi, deputy director of Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, who was the moderator of the discussion organised by Medica Superspecialty Hospital.

City doctors said private hospitals often ran their equipment till late at night, while the state government-run hospitals failed to do so.

“The government has to find ways so equipment is run for longer hours. There could be more trained personnel working in multiple shifts so the machines run longer and more patients can access them every day,” said a doctor.

Surgical oncologist Gautam Mukhopadhyay, who was not part of the panel discussion, told The Telegraph separately that timely access to cancer care was of utmost importance for a patient’s quality of life.

He said following major surgeries, chemotherapy or radiotherapy should begin within the next four to six weeks. “The chances of recovery remain very high if the treatment can be done on time. Delayed treatment reduces the possibility of recovery,” he said.

Waiting in long queues to avail of the therapy is a common problem. If the equipment is used for longer hours, this could help shorten the waiting period, said doctors.

Cancer care should also include preventive steps, like screening, and not just post-detection treatment, said Mukhopadhyay.

A health department official said the state government has set up wellness centres across the state where screening for some cancers has started.

State health secretary Narayan Swaroop Nigam said efforts were being made to take cancer care closer to home.

“What used to happen is that patients move in the system, from one hospital to another. But now we are trying to stop that by expanding cancer care,” Nigam said.

“Now, only the samples will move and the patient will sit at home. Once the results of the tests arrive, we will then inform the patient about what to do. There are telemedicine facilities for consultation, too,” he said.

State health department sources said chemotherapy facilities have been made available in district hospitals. There are cancer OPDs running in many hospitals in the districts twice every week and tumour boards have been set up to assess a patient’s health and future treatment.

Last updated on 06.08.23, 06:29 AM

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