While cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of deaths world-wide, cancer has emerged as the second most common cause of morbidity and mortality, especially in developing countries. Cancer is a disease in which the body develops abnormal cells that divide uncontrollably and spread to other body parts. If left untreated, cancer cells have the ability to destroy healthy tissue and disrupt organ function in those areas. Some of the common risk factors associated with cancer include obesity, old age, genetic predisposition, alcohol consumption, tobacco usage, exposure to radiation including UV rays from the sun, specific chemicals, and certain viral infections.
In 2020, cancer incidence projections in India reflected higher rates among females than males. Geographically, the highest registrations for cancer cases were recorded in Chennai among women. Among children, leukemia accounts for half of all childhood cancers in India and although India may have made significant strides to improve childhood cancer treatment in the last few decades, oncology pediatrics services remain far behind in most developed countries. This can be attributed to factors such as a lack of education and awareness among medical staff and caregivers, leading to delayed or missed diagnosis, preference for alternative and traditional medication among patients, inaccessibility of healthcare facilities, and socio-economic status.
Despite state-of-the-art diagnostic workup protocols within the tertiary cancer centers, there is an urgent need for the establishment of benchmark standards in remote regional areas and smaller towns. The adoption of standardized treatment protocols has shown significant improvements in the recovery and survival outcome of certain cancers. In addition, the cost of cancer treatment in India is associated with high out of pocket expenditure. This makes healthcare unaffordable for the majority of the population. However, through the introduction of schemes under the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) initiated by the government of India such as Ayushman Bharat, financial aid to the economically vulnerable populations for treatment of such diseases can be made viable.
Other optimistic perspectives toward cancer care management would comprise of addressing impediments in the implementation of effective preventive measures through consistent screening programs in the country. However, such a measure is hampered by a lack of medical practitioners including health workers, physicians, technical staff, and pathologists. Further, targeted cancer research and prevention in known areas with high incidences of specific cancer types, such as esophageal cancer in Northeast India or risk populations with lifestyle and obesity related cancers could also be of benefit.