Thiruvananthapuram: Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has decided to remove all stops to lower the national cancer burden by generating awareness about early detection and avoiding leading cancer causing lifestyles.
Speaking at a function organised by the Regional Cancer Centre, in Kumarapuram, Thiruvananthapuram, today, the Minister said cancer, if detected early, could be treated at a fraction of the cost that is incurred when diagnosed at an advanced stage. Its mortality rate is also lowered substantially if people report for screening when the earliest symptoms are manifested. “Henceforth November 7 will be observed all over the country as National Cancer Awareness Day. It is high time we went into combative mode against this disease,” he said.
It is estimated that there are about 2.9 million cases of cancer in the country with 1.1 million new cases being reported annually. Two-thirds of cancer cases are diagnosed at the advanced stage. As Health Minister of Delhi state in the early 1990s, Dr Harsh Vardhan had launched the first state-level movement on cancer control. On a specific day in each year, people were encouraged to report to government hospitals, CGHS and municipal clinics for free screening, the Minister stated. Information booklets were widely circulated to generate awareness on how to avoid getting cancer and to look for signs of early symptoms. In this context, Dr Harsh Vardhan praised the Kerala government’s proposed “Suhurtham” scheme making cancer treatment free in district and medical college hospitals.
“I agree that this is a noble idea and I will try my best to back it for adoption all over the country under the 13th Plan. In the meantime, I will consider including it under the universal health insurance component of the proposed Universal Health Assurance Programme,” he said.
The Health Minister expressed confidence that if there is mass health insurance, the premium burden on the common man would be substantially reduced. “If we succeed in popularising voluntary cancer screening then the disease burden will fall and so will private and public expenditure on cancer,” he said. The function was attended by Sh Oommen Chandy, Chief Minister of Kerala, Sh V.S. Sivakumar, Health Minister, Dr K. Ellangovan, the state’s director of health services and other senior officials.
Dr Harsh Vardhan urged the Kerala government to wage a war against cancer and assured to favourably consider its pending proposals including the setting up of a regional ophthalmic centre. He also appreciated the state’s record in maternal and infant mortality which now stands at 66 per lakh live births and 12 per 1,000 live births respectively. “Kerala is an example before the whole world as a successful development story,” he remarked.
Later, addressing a press conference, Dr Harsh Vardhan said that the proposal of the Kerala government to set up a national cancer centre in the state on a new 15-acre campus will be considered positively. The regional cancer centre was formally given the status of a state cancer centre and will see the infusion of Rs 120 crore in additional funds with the central government providing 75 percent.
During the 12th Plan period, the government is in the process of establishing two new national cancer centres, the Health Minister said. The existing Chittaranjan National Cancer Centre, Kolkata, is going to have a Rs 400-crore new campus in Rajarhat while another new centre is coming up in Jajjhar, Rajasthan under the administrative control of AIIMS, New Delhi.
Alongside, tertiary cancer care facilities are being strengthened in 20 state and 50 tertiary cancer centres under the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, CVD and Stroke. The former are to get Rs 120 crore and the latter, Rs 45 crore with 75 percent central contribution.
The Minister also visited the factory and R&D centre of HLL Lifecare Limited and attended a meeting of member doctors of the Indian Medical Association and the BJP doctors’ cell during his stay in Thiruvananthapuram.
Sanjay Trivedi is honorary editor of Asia Times. He is senior Indian Journalist having vast experience of 25 years. He worked in Janmabhoomi, Vyapar, Divya Bhaskar etc. newspapers and TV9 Channel as well as www.news4education.com. He also served as Media Officer in Gujarat Technological University.