The average size of a human cell is about 100 microns. The wizardry that goes on inside this tiny structure is something that has fascinated humans for centuries. It is the very essence of life that makes us what we are. For some, however, this wondrous element of nature holds the potential to wreck unimaginable agony. The ‘Emperor of all Maladies’ aptly describes Cancer as organized chromosomal chaos. What starts as unregulated, irreversible growth in one single cell, soon propagates into a downfall for fate to behold. It ends up ravaging the human body leaving the patient with nothing but the sheer will to fight the battle against it.
Cancer does not discriminate. It affects every age group, ethnicity and gender. It is the second most common cause of death in the world. This is a cause of concern, especially in lower and lower-middle-income countries where large populations are victims of financial fatigue, making healthcare inaccessible and unsustainable. Amidst the growing trends of privatization and rising costs of healthcare, cancer patients in India have very few comforting prospects to rely upon.
The state of Assam, known for its luscious tea plantations is now being called the capital of cancer in north-eastern India and is currently fighting its biggest battle against this disease. Assam and its surrounding impoverished regions have the luxury of access to world-class cancer care, aiding them in withstanding the ramifications that usually follow a cancer diagnosis. The luminary steering those affected in such times of unprecedented illness is Cachar Cancer Hospital and Research Centre.
Cachar Cancer Hospital and Research Centre (CCHRC), Silchar was set up in 1996 to combat the rising number of cancer patients mainly in Assam, around the regions of Cachar and its neighbouring districts. It is led by Dr Ravi Kannan R, a Surgical oncologist, recipient of Padma Shri, as the Director of CCHRC. Dr Kannan has been lauded for his incredible work in Assam regarding cancer care and beholds India’s fourth highest civilian honour as a testament.
The ever increasing disease burden is being eased in the region by this tertiary healthcare centre catering to the needs of all types of cancers, by providing unparalleled quality of health care with next to no consultation or hospital charges. The hospital beholds numerous departments equipped with a multimodal approach towards cancer care.
Out of the 1.3 billion active tobacco users in the world, 80% of them belong to low income and lower-middle-income countries. According to an ICMR report based on 28 population-based cancer registries (PBCR), 1 in 7 males and 1 in 9 females of age less than 75 years in the Cachar district have a risk of developing cancer. These are alarming statistics considering the precedence that tobacco products hold in this region.
Dr Subhadra Goala, who works in the Department of Preventive Oncology at Cachar Cancer Hospital believes the major cause of cancer in Assam is the consumption of tobacco and related products. She recognizes tobacco products such as cigarettes, bidis and homemade tobacco preparations offered to guests as a sign of hospitality as the major culprit for the growing incidence of cancer in the region.
According to Dr Goala, the two main challenges being faced in the region are screening for cancer and the patients’ lack of awareness towards the healthcare facilities available. The hospital has made headway by partnering with NGOs and elementary schools in the region, spreading awareness about cancer screening, cancer care and ensuring that these beneficiaries are aware of facilities that can be availed at the hospital. However, a great deal remains to be done.
A patient having to deal with a price tag on healthcare continues to plague the workings of the modern era. The word neoplasia (tumour) comes from the Greek words neo ‘’new’’ and plasia ‘’formed’ which means finding new ways to sustain itself, and likewise, we need to find new ways to sustain accessible and inclusive healthcare for the underprivileged parts of our society. In bridging this great divide between need and reinforcement, Cachar Cancer Hospital and Research centre is inching towards fruition.
Dr Shivakumar A
Dr Pranathi G