Improving Cancer Care in India: Prospects and Challenges


The World Cancer Report, a 351 - page global report issued by International Agency for Research on Cancer ‍(IARC) tells us that cancer rates are set to increase at an alarming rate globally (Stewart and Kleiues 2003). Cancer ‍rates could increase by 50 % to 15 million new cases in the year 2020. This will be mainly due to steadily aging ‍populations in both developed and developing countries and also to current trends in smoking prevalence and the ‍growing adoption of unhealthy lifestyles. The report also reveals that cancer has emerged as a major public health ‍problem in developing countries, matching its effect in industrialized nations. Healthy lifestyles and public health ‍action by governments and health practitioners could stem this trend, and prevent as many as one third of cancers ‍worldwide. ‍In a developing country such as India there has been a steady increase in the Crude Incidence Rate (CIR) of all ‍cancers affecting both men and women over the last 15 years. The increase reported by the cancer registries is nearly ‍12 per cent from 1985 to 2001, representing a 57 per cent rise in India's cancer burden. The total number of new ‍cases, which stood at 5.3 lakhs Care lakh is 100,000 in 1985 has risen to over 8.3 lakhs today. The pattern of cancers ‍has changed over the years, with a disturbing increase in cases that are linked to the use of tobacco. In 2003, there ‍were 3.85 lakhs of cases coming under this category in comparison with 1.94 lakhs cases two decades ago. Lung ‍cancer is now the second most common cancer among men. Earlier, it was in fifth place. Among women in urban ‍areas, cancer of the uterine cervix had the highest incidence 15 years ago, but it has now been overtaken by breast ‍cancer. In rural areas, cervical cancer remains the most common form of the disease (The Hindu 2004).