By Our Reporter
SHILLONG, Feb 12: Meghalaya, known for grappling with the notorious title of the cancer capital, is hosting its inaugural two-day Cancer Conclave. The event, inaugurated on Monday, is a collaborative effort between the state government and Apollo Telemedicine Networking Foundation (ATNF) and is aimed at addressing the pressing issue of cancer care under the theme “Closing the Care Gap”.
The conclave brought together diverse stakeholders from the government both state and central, private institutions, researchers, scholars, NGOs, industry leaders, media representatives and above all cancer survivors who gave their testimonies.
Inaugurating the two-day conclave, Health Minister Ampareen Lyngdoh told the gathering that this deliberation is very close to her heart, having lost a family member to the disease.
Stating that the time for discussions is over and now it’s time to act, Ampareen said the conclave is not meant to list out the achievements of the government but to take a hard look at the gaps in implementing cancer care.
“Those who suffer from cancer should not have to incur out of pocket expenses. We need to cut the formalities and ensure that the MHIS reaches out to every family and every cancer victim. Funds should be made available to overcome cancer. This government will leave no stone unturned to ensure that every cancer patient receives treatment. A cancer patient and his/her relatives cannot be made to run from pillar to post,” Lyngdoh said adding that 10 months ago when she was given the charge of the Health department, she had made a promise to get done what must be done.
Earlier, NEIGRIHMS Director Nalin Mehta made a commitment that the institute would collaborate with the state government whenever it was called upon to do so. Stating that the media is key in imparting awareness, Dr Mehta said it is important for healthcare providers to send out messages through the media in articles shorn of jargons so that readers are not intimidated but would be prompted to seek early detection and treatment.
Key discussions centered on early diagnosis, access to quality treatment, cancer epidemiology, technology-enabled screening, palliative care, research, media’s role, and survivorship.
As part of the Meghalaya Mission Cancer Prevention & Early Detection initiative, mobile endoscopy units were distributed to every district hospital across the state, to enhance early detection efforts.
Earlier, alarming statistics from the Indian Council of Medical Research – National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research (ICMR-NCDIR) have shed light on the highest rate of tobacco-related cancer in East Khasi Hills, with significant correlations between leading anatomical cancer sites and tobacco use.
Similarly, Dr. LE Lyngdoh Nongbri, State Nodal Officer of the National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP), highlighted alarming statistics regarding tobacco usage in Meghalaya.
A staggering 47% of the population aged 15 and above consume tobacco, along with 34% of children aged 13-15. The devastating toll of 8,000 deaths annually underscores the urgent need for intervention. Esophageal Cancer topped the list, followed closely by other sites like the hypo pharynx, stomach, cervix-uteri, and mouth, with tobacco use attributing to nearly two-thirds of male cancers and over 40% of female cancers.
Heart-rending testimonies from cancer survivors were presented, wherein Master Tyngshain Kharkrang, aged 8, shared his battle with Medulloblastoma (a common type of cancerous brain tumour in children, while Jeena Mary Nongbet expressed gratitude for being declared cancer-free since 2020. Yasmine Lyngdoh’s journey from childhood cancer survivor to facing multiple diagnoses underscored the importance of early detection, while Warimeki Lyngwa’s triumphant battle against cancer after a gruelling two-year fight evoked tears of both sorrow and joy.
Other distinguished dignitaries who were present included Chief Secretary DP Wahlang, Principal Secretary of Health, Sampath Kumar, Chairman of State Cancer Society of Meghalaya, Ram Kumar and Economic Advisor, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Indrani Kaushal.