Six crore Indian citizens are pushed below the poverty line every year because of treatment costs associated with cancer in their families, a parliamentary panel report suggests. While 16 lakh new cancer cases are diagnosed every year, the annual mortality is eight lakh. The current health infrastructure is grossly inadequate to handle the growing problem of cancer, the report says.
The 325th report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change, which looked into the expanded role of the department of atomic energy in cancer treatment in India through an enlarged network of the Tata Memorial Centre (TMC), pointed out that in the absence of availability of adequate facilities in their own region/states, a majority of cancer patients travel to far-off locations, sometimes thousands of kilometres, for their treatment. "The Committee would like to lay emphasis on the fact that mortality to incidence ratio of 0.68 in India is higher than that in very high human development index (HDI) countries (0.38) and high HDI countries (0.57). This data of higher mortality rate is also reflective of our systematic failure to cater to the rising number of cancer patients in the country. The Committee also finds a co-relation between inadequate cancer care facilities and cancer deaths in the country and therefore, would like to highlight the importance and significance of having a robust cancer infrastructure in our country," the report, presented to Rajya Sabha on November 11, said.
Chaired by Congress MP Jairam Ramesh, the committee observed that various schemes, projects and programmes run by the Union as well as state governments may not yield the desired results as they are all working in silos to address cancer treatment. "There should be synergy between all such governments, authorities and agencies. The Committee, therefore, is of the opinion that the Department of Atomic Energy/Tata Memorial Centre should work in tandem and close co-ordination with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare as well as state governments so that concerted efforts are put to tackle the cancer burden," it said.
Quoting the estimates of International Agency for Research on Cancer's GLOBOCAN project, the report said that the burden of cancer in India is expected to increase from an estimated incidence of 1.3 million cases in 2018 to about 1.7 million in 2035. It said that TMC, under the department of Atomic Energy is best suited to take on this challenge considering their world-class standards and unmatched experience.
With 1,40,000 incidences every year, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer affecting Indian women. Gastro-intestinal tract is the most common problem area with an annual incidence of 1,38,000 cases among Indian men. The other common cancer affecting women are cervical (1,00,000 cases) and oral cancer (45,000). Pharnyx (90,000) and oral cavity (1,38,000) are the types of cancer that affect men most. In a submission to the committee, representatives of the Tata Memorial Centre had pointed out that "even by Ayushman Bharat records, which we have recently looked at over the last one year, two-thirds of the cancer care is actually provided in the private sector with the result that almost every year, six crore of India's population goes below the poverty line because of the catastrophic healthcare related expenditure on cancer.