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There’s a looming challenge for cancer control in NE region

India’s Northeast (NE) region is a hotbed of cancer cases, and has been dubbed the "Cancer Capital of India."

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Kolkata: According to Dr Naresh Purohit, advisor to the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP), there is a looming challenge for cancer control in the northeast (NE) region, and existing programmes and policies appear ineffective in addressing the region’s cancer crisis.

Dr Purohit, a visiting professor at the Kolkata-based West Bengal University of Health Sciences, School of Public Health, told UNI on Saturday that lifestyle-related cancers have significantly increased in the north-east region after addressing an interactive webinar with medical and nursing students on “Cancer Burden in East India,” organised by the Kolkata-based Thakurpukur Cancer Hospital.

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Noted Epidemiologist Dr. Purohit said that according to the ICMR and NCDIR cancer registry report (2021) – India’s Northeast (NE) region is a hotbed of cancer cases, and has been dubbed the “Cancer Capital of India.”

It has been clearly pointed out that cancer cases could rise by a steep 12.8% by 2025 in India and by 13.5% in the NE region. 

“While the national average for cancer incidence cases is 80–110 per lakh, the Northeast region has almost double the rate at 150–200 cases per lakh people.” In addition to a unique cancer profile and high incidence rates, the NE region has reported poor clinical prognosis and cancer survival rates,” he added.

He cautioned that the proportion of cancer patients from NE states who sought treatment outside the NE region is reported to be as high as 95.3% for Sikkim, followed by Nagaland at 58.1%, and given the soaring cancer burden, inadequate cancer care facilities, and a high efflux of patients seeking treatment outside the region, the NE states cannot afford to be complacent.

He emphasised that it is high time for all regional stakeholders to join hands and come on board to earnestly address the concerns related to effective cancer care management and cancer control through a multilevel and multidisciplinary approach.

He stated that data from different population-based cancer registries and hospital-based cancer registries in India show that in Northeast India, the most common anatomical sites of cancer in men are the oesophagus, lung, stomach, hypopharynx, and mouth, while in women these are the breast, cervix, uterus, gall bladder, oesophagus, and lungs. Cancers of these anatomical sites are mostly linked to lifestyle-related risk factors.

Nuclear medicine facilities in the Northeast are still far behind those in the rest of India, according to experts.There is an acute shortage of PET – CT scanners, cyclotrons, and skilled workers in the region.

“Compared to the rest of India, where there are 352 NM facilities and 299 PET/CT facilities, there are only seven functional nuclear medicine facilities centred around three states, with only five PET/CT CT to cater to the entire NE region’s needs,” they added.

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