GUWAHATI: A large number of cancer patients in Assam have discontinued their treatment in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak raising fear of high cancer mortality rate amidst the ongoing pandemic.
Sources told The Sentinel that the flow of patients to the Dr B Borooah Cancer Institute (BBCI), State Cancer Institute (SCI) and the North East Cancer Hospital and Research Institute (NECHRI) has drastically gone down in the last four months starting from the last part of April this year. While the footfall has reduced by 50 per cent in BBCI and NECHRI, it is 30 per cent in the SCI situated at the Gauhati Medical College & Hospital (GMCH) premises.
"This is an alarming development, and will give rise to new cancer cases, delayed treatment to the already existing patients and resultant deaths. The immune system of cancer patients always remains fragile; thus, they need constant touch of doctors for counseling and advice," BBCI director Dr Amal Chandra Kataki said.
During the COVID-19 driven lockdown from March this year, doctors of BBCI had provided teleconsultation to 5,000 patients. Dr Kataki, however, said that teleconsultation could never be a substitute for normal cancer treatment. He hoped that with relaxation of the lockdown rules in a phased manner by the government, the BBCI could see an increase in the flow of patients.
Dr Kataki further said that the National Cancer Registry Programme report for 2020 released recently has once again exposed the high vulnerability of the populace of NE to cancer. He pointed out that awareness to detect cancer at a very early stage has to be increased manifold to increase the survival rate of those suffering from this disease.
An oncologist at SCI said that COVID-19 infection for cancer patients could prove fatal as both the diseases are directly linked with the human immune system. "We are now faced with a new challenge. We cannot treat a cancer patient with chemotherapy if he or she is also suffering from COVID-19 at the same time due to the immunity issue," he said.
Dr Kataki added that the situation in Assam has been very critical as most of the patients are diagnosed with cancer when the disease reaches its advanced stage.
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