Early detection key to cancer survival: Study

Women suffering from uterine or cervical cancer can lead a normal life and their life expectancy could be longer if the disease is detected and treated early.

By Daulat Rahman in Guwahati
  • Published 24.09.16
B. Borooah Cancer Institute in Guwahati

Guwahati, Sept. 23: Women suffering from uterine or cervical cancer can lead a normal life and their life expectancy could be longer if the disease is detected and treated early.

A study conducted by B. Borooah Cancer Institute (BBCI), the lone full-fledged cancer care institute in the region, has found that many women suffering from cervical cancer are dying early because of late detection.

"We conducted a study on data of 193 uterine cervical patients diagnosed from January to December in 2010 at BBCI. The study has, for the first time, shown the five-year survival rate of patients afflicted with such cancer in the Northeast and Assam in particular. It has shown that around 40 per cent of women diagnosed with uterine cervical cancer survive for five years in our settings. It is believed that a five-year survival is considered as a surrogate indicator for cancer cure," BBCI director Amal Chandra Kataki told The Telegraph today.

Kataki, however, said a majority of women come to BBCI at the second, third or very advanced stage of cervical cancer. Though doctors at BBCI try to give the best of treatment to patients diagnosed late, many of them embrace death early as cervical cancer spreads very fast to other parts of the body, he said.

"Massive awareness campaigns must be carried out in the state to detect cervical cancer very early. All girl students in the state must be immunised with a vaccine against cervical cancer," Kataki said.

Cervical cancer arises from the cervix. The disease is caused because of an abnormal growth of cells that have the ability to invade or spread to other parts of the body. BBCI receives about 450 cervical cancer patients every year.

Kataki said though it is difficult to detect early symptoms of uterine cervical cancer, awareness must be created among women to undergo medical investigation if they experience symptoms such as abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge, pain while urinating and having sex, and pelvic pains. Uterine cancer is diagnosed usually with a pelvic exam, ultrasound, and biopsy.

According to the BBCI study, estimates indicate that there will be nearly 1,22,844 new uterine cervical cancer cases each year in India and it will comprise around 18 per cent of all cancers in Indian women. In Assam, the incidence of uterine cervical cancers is around 5, 13 and 15 new cases per one lakh women in Dibrugarh, Cachar and Kamrup districts, respectively.

The vital finding from the BBCI study has shown that the five-year survival rate significantly improved from around 30 to 48 per cent in patients diagnosed in early stages in comparison with advanced staged patients. The study also showed that patients who have received chemotherapy along with radiotherapy had better five-year survival rates.

Kataki said 38,771 patients (every year) across India with uterine cervical cancer do not get the benefit of the combined chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and thus they have relatively poor survival rate.

Manigreeva Krishnatreya, the lead investigator of the study, said the biggest challenge of the entire exercise was in gathering information about the vital statuses of patients from hospitals and individuals as well.