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Cancer ray of hope in Assam

GUWAHATI, June 16: The Assam Cancer Care Foundation – a venture in partnership between the State Health and Family Welfare Department and Tata Trust – is going to lay the foundation stones of as many as 19 cancer centres in the State on Monday with a view to arresting the spread of all-pervading cancer in Assam where around 31,825 new cases are detected annually.

Ratan Tata from Tata Trust and BJP’s national president Amit shah are going to attend the foundation-stone laying programme to be held centrally in Guwahati on Monday. The foundation stones of 18 other cancer centres will be laid at the district headquarters on the same day.

Informing the media of this on Saturday, State Health and Family Welfare Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said: “Cancer is going to be all-pervading in Assam. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) report in 2016, around 31,825 cancer cases are reported in the State annually. This is not all. Around 25 per cent of cancer cases go unreported in the State. Taking the threat perception from cancer into account, we approached Ratan Tata for a meaningful partnership, and he agreed to it. The enormity of the problem is such that along with around 31,825 cancer patients of the State, around two lakh people, including attendants of patients, go to cancer hospitals within the State and outside annually. Around 70 per cent of the cancer patients die in Assam mainly due to late detection and lack of proper treatment. In such a backdrop, if we can provide facilities for timely detection of cancer and proper treatment to patients, at least 60 per cent of the patients can be saved from the jaws of death.”

On the funding pattern of the Foundation, Sarma said: “Tata Trust is going to donate Rs 850 crore to the foundation that is set to get Rs 1,080 crore as grant from the State Government. The Foundation to be headed by the State Health and Family Welfare Minister as the chairman is to have oncologist Dr Tapan Saikia from Tata Trust.”

On the system of cancer treatment to be followed in the new set-up in the State, Sarma said: “The Cancer Hospital attached to the GMCH is to be upgraded to South East Asia Cancer Research Centre (SEACRC). Now on, cancer treatment in the State will be a grid system in which information of patients will get updated in all cancer centres and hospitals in the State automatically. The daycare of cancer patients at the grassroots level is to be called L-3 (level three), the next phase of treatment is L-2, and the last phase is L-1 which is the Assam Medical College (AMC) at Dibrugarh, the referral hospital for cancer patients in the State. All patient-related information will get updated automatically from L-3 to L-1 through the grid system.”

When asked on shortage of manpower for the venture, Sarma said: “Shortage of doctors is always there in all branches of treatment, let alone cancer. However, that shouldn’t deter us from doing anything tangible. The State government is going to pump a huge amount for better facilities of oncologists of the Foundation. I hope the package will be alluring for oncologists of the State working elsewhere in the country and abroad.”