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Cervical cancer trends in state evoke concern

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By Our Reporter

SHILLONG, May 4: The trends in cancer in Meghalaya, particularly cervical cancer, have caused an alarm.
Concern is rife over the multifaceted aspects of cancer crisis in Meghalaya, from its root causes to governmental responses and collaborative efforts aimed at mitigating the burden on healthcare infrastructure and improving patient outcomes.
Revealing concerning trends in cervical cancer cases in the state, Dr Anisha Mawlong, Head of the Oncology Department, Civil Hospital, Shillong, on Saturday, said that the rising cases of cervical cancer can be traced to the large number of children being borne by women, especially in rural areas, and additionally, engaging in multiple sexual partners.
“We aren’t in the top numbers, but if it is not addressed immediately, sooner than later, this will be a concern too,” said Mawlong while speaking on the sidelines of the annual MMSA conference held here.
She also emphasised the increasing instances of esophageal, head and neck cancer, and added that the numbers will rise as the state is headed towards early screening and detection in mission mode, as that is the only way of tackling it and increasing the survival rate of patients.
As per the ICMR data, the state stands second in the ranking in cancer with 227.9 per one lakh population in males, and in female, it is 118.6 per one lakh population.
The probability of developing cancer in the citizens of our state, in males, is 1:5, and in females it is 1:9.
In response to the urgent need for prevention and early detection, the government has launched the Meghalaya Cancer Prevention and Early Detection Mission. Dr Mawlong emphasised the importance of public participation in screening programmes.
She added, “So I had just done a pilot study. We went to all the district headquarters for screening cancers and of course the public turnout was very less because people are still scared of being diagnosed with cancer. But even of the little people that we had screened, we had screened in all 11 districts in the state and out of that, we had screened 1093 people out of which we got 15 confirmed cases and 71 suspected cases.”
She additionally mentioned, “People did not come forward, just 1,093 in the 11 districts but still out of that we got 50 plus positive cases.”
To address the growing crisis, the state government has established a 90-bed cancer wing at the Civil Hospital in Shillong, although there’s a shortage of specialised oncologists. She also added that this year, the Civil Hospital is set to acquire advanced medical equipment, including a linear accelerator and brachytherapy.
The scarcity of surgical and medical oncologists in the state is a concern particularly noting Meghalaya’s alarming rate of esophageal cancer cases, which exceeds the national average by over tenfold, standing at 71.2 per lakh people, has been a concern.
The state government is looking to collaborate with several hospitals and organisations, and the Medica Cancer Hospital, a leading healthcare chain in Eastern India, has expressed its interest with the state government for the same.
Dr Saumitra Bharadwaj from Medica Group of Hospitals, Dr Arindam Mondal, and Dr Sayan Das from Medica Cancer Hospital, who were also part of the conference, expressed their willingness to collaborate by training resident doctors and also empanelling the hospital for the MHIS cards so patients from the state can receive the needed cancer care, from their chain of hospitals.

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