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State strives to raise awareness about cancer

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By Our Reporter

Shillong, Feb 3: The state health department is striving to raise awareness about cancer, its prevention, and the importance of early detection.
Ahead of World Cancer Day, which is celebrated every year on February 4, senior oncologist of Shillong Civil Hospital, Dr Anisha Mawlong said that the efforts of the health department are in sync with the theme for 2022-24, “Close the care gap: Everyone deserves access to cancer care”.
The cancer specialist said that the theme highlights how people can get the support they need and how everyone can work together to help those affected by cancer.
“It aims at what we as a state have done to ‘Close the care gap’,’ Dr Mawlong said.
The senior oncologist informed that the first step taken was setting up a dedicated cancer wing in Civil Hospital Shillong which caters to the treatment of the cancer population of our state.
The government then launched the Meghalaya Mission Cancer Prevention and Early Detection with the aim of not only providing a treatment centre but catering to a much bigger task of awareness, screening, and early detection.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research-National Centre for Diseases Informatics and Research (ICMR –NCDIR), Dr Mawlong pointed out that Meghalaya ranks 6th in males in the incidence of cancer with 176.8 cases per 1 lakhs population and ranks 19th in females in the incidence of cancer with 96.5 cases per 1 lakhs population in the country.
East Khasi Hills ranks second in males in the incidence of cancer with 227.9 cases per 1 Lakhs population and ranks 11th in females in the incidence of cancer with 118.6 cases per 1 Lakhs population.
Dr Mawlong informed that East Khasi Hills district also has the highest relative proportion of cancers associated with the use of tobacco with 70.4% and 46.5% for males and females respectively (Report from National Cancer Registry Programme, India 2020).
With East Khasi Hills having the highest cancer incidence rate, she said that a separate programme on First Cancer Care in the district has been designed in collaboration with Apollo Telemedicine Networking Foundation (ATNF) and is ongoing with three value pathways awareness, mass screening, and early detection/ capacity building of health care personnel and developing a standard-based Oncology Data Management.
The senior oncologist informed that the programme was launched in March 2023 and so far 46613 individuals of East Khasi Hills have been screened and the suspected cases have been attended to at Civil Hospital Shillong.
“In the same line, the mission is being implemented across the state by the State Cancer Society of Meghalaya and has covered the district headquarters and screened 1031 people out of which 86 have been referred to higher centres for further investigations,” she said.
According to her, this will be further expanded to the grassroots level and involve the support of all stakeholders in the community including the village health council, traditional healers, religious leaders, and the mass and media communication team.
Meanwhile, Dr Mawlong informed that the state cancer society is on an active mode to reduce the incidence of cancer in the state which envisages control of tobacco-related cancers, HPV- related cancers, and a special target for the commonest cancers in the state viz., head, and neck, esophageal, breast, cervical and other cancers.
She said that cancer is a formidable opponent, affecting millions of lives globally.
“However, by understanding the disease, adopting healthy habits, spreading awareness, and coming forward for screening, we can take steps towards reducing its impact. Let us use this day as a platform to empower ourselves and those around us and together, we can make strides toward a future where cancer is preventable, treatable, and ultimately defeated,” the senior oncologist added.

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