Parliamentary panel report spells out how woefully inadequate India’s cancer treatment infrastructure is

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Published: November 14, 2019 3:03:31 AM

Thanks to a systemic failure to address the requirements of cancer patients in India, the country recorded 20% higher mortality than countries placed high on the Human Development Index.

The National Cancer Grid—a network of major cancer centres, research institutes, patient groups, and charitable institutions across India—is a key resource in the fight against cancer.

As per a report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science, Technology, and Environment, thanks to a systemic failure to address the requirements of cancer patients in India, the country recorded 20% higher mortality than countries placed high on the Human Development Index. The committee was formed to analyse the merits of a proposal to expand the role of the Department of Atomic Energy through the Tata Memorial Centre (TMC) to address India’s rising cancer incidence, which has more than doubled over the past two-and-half decades. The parliamentary committee says that, due to inadequate cancer treatment infrastructure, most patients have to travel thousands of kilometres for a cure, and end up facing a lot of hardship. The report notes around two-thirds are treated in the private sector, and thanks to low penetration of health insurance, the out-of-pocket expenditure on treatment forces nearly six crore people below the poverty line.

The National Cancer Grid—a network of major cancer centres, research institutes, patient groups, and charitable institutions across India—is a key resource in the fight against cancer. However, TMC recommended to the committee that a hub-and-spoke model of centres be set up—‘hub’ centres will treat complex cases, while ‘spokes’ will treat less complex cancers. The country will need 30 hubs and 130 spokes to meet existing demand for cancer treatment. The government should pay heed to this report and take the necessary steps at the earliest. Another key area will be cancer research, of the kind that just recently yielded a US FDA certified ‘breakthrough’ device.

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