Timely cancer diagnosis and treatment is important to cure the disease in time and to reduce death risk and its spread to vital organs. But, the pandemic has led to an unprecedented crisis of sorts for cancer patients. Many cases went undetected till a later stage, which increased death risk, and many patients were scared to visit doctors due to the Covid-19 scare.
Dr Prashant Mehta, Senior Consultant & Bone Marrow Transplant Head, Cancer Department of Asian Hospital said, “Several patients were afraid to come to the hospital due to Covid. This led to their not being detected in time. Those who were diagnosed in the third stage could have been diagnosed in stage two or one. Some patients also stopped the treatment midway, due to which there may have been some preventable relapses.”
Cancer progresses every day, in such a situation delay in treatment is harmful. People whose treatment for cancer is delayed by even a month have a 6% to 13% increased risk of dying.
Cancer hospitals are usually available in Tier 1 or Tier 2 cities. The patients who need to visit such designated hospitals many times have to travel from far off places. When the Covid was at its peak, due to a lot of restrictions, patients were unable to travel and also found it difficult to find accommodation near the hospitals.
Dr Vikas Kothavade, Consultant — Radiation Oncologist, Jupiter Hospital, Pune said, “Due to the pandemic we found patients are presenting at an advanced stage of cancer as they did not reach during the initial stages. This was the scenario mainly in the initial period. The patients who had already started treatment, we did not find much of a break in their treatments. As screening programmes had slowed down during the period, early detection became challenging.”
Dr Anshuman Kumar, Director — Surgical Oncology, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi said, “In India, many people do not understand the seriousness of the advanced treatments available in India and the precautions they can take to keep themselves away from cancer. Those who can afford the expensive treatments, prefer flying to different countries and leave the poor with no hope.”
Adding further, Dr Kumar says, “People should be aware of the advanced treatments available in our country as same as provided in foreign countries and should be aware of the precautionary treatment’s information or awareness. For example, few people know that we can save the umbilical cord and use it in the treatment of not only cancer but other diseases as well. There are genes known as BRCA 1 and BRCA 2, which causes breast cancer and they can get precautionary treatment by getting themselves tested for these genes. Only becoming aware of the disease would not be enough to fight against it strongly but the proper awareness of treatment can.”