SRINAGAR: Decades after the development of cancer diagnosis and treatment, Kashmir is still far from effectively treating terminal disease. And this is not because of the lack of competent doctors, but because of the lack of infrastructure, both in private and public sector hospitals.
Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed an increase in the number of cancer patients, with data showing that there are 26,366 patients affected by the disease. In Kashmir alone, according to a study called “Epidemiology of Cancers in Kashmir, India: An Analysis of Hospital Data” by doctors Mariya A Qureshi and others, cases of stomach cancer were the most numerous, followed by colorectal cancer (16.4%) and lung cancer. (13.2%). Between 2010 and 2016, the number of cancer cases at SKIMS increased from 1,400 to 4,300.
About 21,000 patients have died of cancer since 2018, including 6,800 patients in 2018, 700 in 2019 and nearly 7,200 in 2020, according to the study.
Why are people dying of cancer in Jammu and Kashmir if the first treatment center was established in the 1970s, about five decades ago, at GMC Srinagar. According to Dr Gul Muhammad, Head of Medical Oncology, SKIMS, besides the precautions people need to take to prevent disease, the medical facilities for diagnosing cancer are plentiful and the treatment process takes time. Society and government efforts can achieve both, he said.
Dr Sameer Koul, an oncologist with more than three decades of experience in treating cancer patients, said the cure rate is low in J&K because diagnosis occurs at a later stage of cancer, when treatment remains. mostly ineffective. He said 80 percent of cancers are detected at advanced stages.
“If the cancer diagnosis comes at an early stage, the cure rate improves. Most of the patients arrive here in the third stage of cancer. They should have been diagnosed earlier, which is only possible when there is preventive oncology. It is at this stage that the disease can be detected and treated. But that is not happening in Kashmir, ”he said.
Dr Gul, however, said the cure rate for cancer patients in Kashmir is nearly 30%, which is comparable to global standards.
Besides the diagnosis, according to Dr Koul, the lack of facilities is another problem. “We have PETs but they are not sufficient to meet the load of patients. SKIMS and GMC are unable to keep up and people have to wait for treatment. It turns out to be dangerous. Otherwise, the doctors are doing their best, ”said the senior oncologist.
An increasing number of cancer cases have been reported in three districts of northern Kashmir: Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipora. The three districts registered a total of 21 percent of cancer patients in the Kashmir division, according to a population-based cancer registry available at SKIMS. But there is no facility to treat these patients in a dedicated oncology department at Government Medical College Baramulla.
Kashmir’s first facility for the treatment of cancer patients was established at GMC Srinagar in the 1970s. Over the years, the service has grown from a single room to a dedicated center, where health services have been established. medico-surgical oncology. But it doesn’t respond to the growing influx of patients and people have to wait too long, which turns out to be fatal, for their turn to seek treatment.