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Cancer among top 5 killers in Meghalaya

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SHILLONG, July 30: Cancer is among the top five causes of death in Meghalaya, a survey has revealed.
The report titled ‘Monitoring Survey of Cancer Risk Factors and Health System Response in Meghalaya, 2021-22’ was released virtually at the main secretariat by the Population-Based Cancer Registry (PBCR) of the Shillong Civil Hospital headed by Principal Investigator WB Langstieh.
The survey was in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research-National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research (ICMR-NCDIR), Bengaluru.
Speaking from Bengaluru, ICMR-NCDIR Director Prashant Mathur called for improving cancer screening and bringing cancer care centres nearer to the home of the people. He emphasised the need to declare cancer as a notifiable disease in Meghalaya to understand its actual burden and for better collaboration between the government and the PBCR.
“Cancer is among the top five killers in our state,” A. Dkhar, Joint Director of Health Services said.
“In the Northeast, non-communicable diseases accounted for 58.8% of the total deaths, 9.5% of them due to cancer, the highest in India according to the World Health Organization (WHO) in its 2018 profile,” he added.
Robert R Marak, an epidemiologist and district surveillance officer of IDSP, highlighted the key finding of the survey – a high percentage (52.5%) of consumption of tobacco, both smoked and smokeless.
According to the survey, tobacco consumption in the state begins at 19.2 years. It showed that 80.8% of respondents were exposed to passive smoke in the past 30 days. The survey report also highlighted the usage of betel products, observed to be the cause of oral submucous fibrosis, a pre-cancerous condition that can progress to oral cancer. Currently, the consumption of non-tobacco betel products among respondents is 72.7%, of which areca nut consumption is the highest.
The survey also found many people in the state start taking alcohol at 21 years and 10% of the respondents said they have been into heavy episodic drinking. More than 60% of the respondents said they consumed preserved or salt-curated and fermented products.
More than half of the respondents (60.7%) were pre-hypertensive, about 21% had central obesity, 8.3% were overweight and 1.2% were obese. Also, the prevalence of raised fasting blood glucose was 1.7%.
Health-seeking behaviour was very low where 29.2% of the respondents never had their BP measured in life and only 16.4% of the respondents were aware of Ca screening for the three common cancers (oral, breast and cervical).
Appreciating the release of the report, Sampath Kumar, the principal secretary of Health and Family Welfare and chairman of PBCR stressed the need to focus on preventive care for reducing the non-communicable disease burden in Meghalaya, particularly cancer.
Commending the Cancer Registry Cell of Civil Hospital for working even during the pandemic, he said the report has provided valuable insights for the key stakeholders of the state.
“Although there is a need to improve public health systems in terms of service delivery, there is a need for adequate citizens’ participation and cooperation. People of the state should also invest time in understanding the causes of cancer, and how actually one can prevent cancer rather than finding solutions for treatment at a later stage,” Kumar said.

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