Cancer Cases on the Rise in India, Prompting Alarm from Health Experts

Cancer Cases on the Rise in India, Prompting Alarm from Health Experts

Cancer Cases on the Rise in India, Prompting Alarm from Health Experts

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Health experts are warning of an exponential rise in the number of cancer patients over the next two decades. Praful Reddy, a 49-year-old IT professional from Andhra Pradesh, has been battling lung cancer for two years, undergoing targeted therapy, chemotherapy, and radiation. He faces recurring side effects like vomiting, headaches, and ulcers, uncertain about his recovery despite doctors’ hopes.

Similarly, 12-year-old Dipti from Bengaluru is undergoing treatment for Wilms tumor, experiencing side effects like skin damage and hair loss due to radiation therapy. These cases reflect a broader trend of rising cancer diagnoses in India, especially among children, making it the fastest-growing cancer hotspot globally.

A recent report by Apollo Hospitals labeled India as “the cancer capital of the world,” highlighting declining overall health nationwide, with soaring cases of cancer and other non-communicable diseases. Chronic conditions like cancer, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, and mental health disorders have reached critical levels, affecting one in three Indians pre-diabetic, two in three pre-hypertensive, and one in 10 struggling with depression.

The report projected annual cancer cases to increase from nearly 1.4 million in 2020 to 1.57 million by 2025. Breast, cervix, and ovarian cancer are prevalent among women, while lung, mouth, and prostate cancer affect men. Contributory factors include advancing age, unhealthy diets, air pollution, and increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation due to climate change.

Alarmingly, certain cancers are affecting younger people in India sooner than in Western countries. For instance, the median age for lung cancer is 59 in India, compared to 70 in the US and 75 in the UK.

Urgent Need for Regular Screenings to Combat Cancer

Health experts emphasize the critical need for increased health screening rates in India to effectively tackle the growing cancer burden. Nitesh Rohatgi, a senior director of medical oncology at the Fortis Memorial Research Institute, underscores the necessity for prioritized action, urging government incentives for screening and policies to enhance financial protection and expand screening and treatment services.

Despite existing screening programs for oral, breast, and cervical cancer, national data reveals screening rates below 1%, far below the WHO’s recommended minimum of 70% for women. Asit Arora, director of cancer care at the Max Super Speciality Hospital in Delhi, warns of a potential doubling of cancer cases by 2040 unless proactive measures are taken at individual, societal, and governmental levels.