Goa must have its own world class cancer treatment and research centre soonest
Detection of more than a thousand new cancer cases by the oncology department of the Goa Medical College and Hospital in less than a year is alarming. On an average at least three cancer cases have been detected by the department since it started functioning on September 15, 2018. The number of undetected and unreported cancer cases could be much higher as not all people seek medical assistance and ignore symptoms, which ultimately lead to cancer cases becoming untreatable. Let us hope Health Minister Vishwajit Rane keeps his promise of enlarging detection to cover as many cases as possible. Early detection is essential for effective medical intervention. The government would have to hold frequent health camps across the state and create awareness among people to undergo tests for detection of cancer. Most people are reluctant to attend health camps as they do not want their health status to be known to others. People must volunteer to undergo tests to detect cancer. The response to health camps is usually not very encouraging. The task of detecting people with cancer is therefore going to be challenging to the government.
In view of the rising number of cancer cases the government must speed up the establishment of the proposed Goa Regional Cancer Centre. Though the foundation stone for the centre was laid about six months ago, work on the project is yet to take off. The regional cancer centre is projected to become functional in 24 months after commencement of work. The delay in starting work on setting up the centre raises doubts about the sincerity of the Health Minister’s promise of accelerating the process. The centre is important from the point of view that Goans diagnosed with cancer and requiring high-end cancer treatment have to travel to hospitals in Mumbai or Karnataka. As cancer gets aggravated due to delay in treatment, the Health Minister should take immediate steps to tie up with established centres like Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai or Narayan Hrudayalaya in Bengaluru and other hospitals to provide treatment to Goans. At the same time he must make the Goa Regional Cancer Centre operational at the earliest so cancer patients do not have to go outside for treatment.
Goa had low incidence of cancer in the past. People were afflicted with the disease in old age. However, that has changed now and cancer is found to be prevalent even in young people including children and newly born. Experts attribute prevalence of cancer in young people (under 40s) to their lifestyle as also stress and pollution. The experts are, however, still clueless about what causes cancer among children, especially newly born. They hold that the pattern of distribution and number of cancer cases in Goa have touched the national and global averages. The specialists in the field are of the opinion that the rising trend of cancer incidence in Goa will be hard to reverse. That is very alarming. Why is cancer incidence rising so fast in Goa? It shows that the priorities of the government in cancer combat should also include combat against pollution and other causative factors. The government should also requisition a study to detect if the fish consumed by people contains cancer-causing substances such as formalin.
The government’s immediate task is to help patients in getting timely treatment in hospitals outside Goa. They need to focus on creating awareness among people that diagnosis of cancer at early stage would not only help them get total cure but also save them a lot of pain they would face in case cancer progresses to later stages. The government should take the help of YouWeCan, the NGO promoted by Yuvraj Singh in early detection of cancer. The government must entrust the work on the 110-bedded Goa Regional Cancer Centre to officers who have managerial skill of chasing and completing projects on time. The centre should be equipped with the latest innovations in cancer detection and treatment, including PET scan. World class facilities for treatment and research will attract specialists in cancer care, including Goans working elsewhere. The process of recruitment must begin as the work on the centre goes on so that it delivers services right from word go.