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The hope force
First, the good news. An average Indian, in 2021, will live four years longer than today. The bad news - this is bound to increase India's cancer burden exponentially.
Already one of 10 leading causes of death in India, cancer is set to become a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the coming decades.
What's most worrying is that a recent study found that 70% of these deaths are of those in there prime, between 30 and 69 years of age. For the first time ever, the government's apex medical research body - the Indian Council of Medical Research - has marked a score for the "possibility of one in a given number of persons developing cancer of any site".
In Delhi, one in 13 men and one in 11 women runs the risk of suffering from cancer by the time they are 64. In Mumbai and Kolkata, the corresponding numbers for men and women are one in 19 and one in 14. In Chennai, the numbers are one in 14 men and one in 12 women.
India records 5 lakh deaths annually of cancer. What makes the disease so deadly is late diagnosis, say experts unanimously. Over 80 per cent cases in India are diagnosed at advanced stages of the disease.
The biggest concern today, however, is the acute shortage of oncologists. The health ministry recently relaxed rules to increase the number of doctors opting for this medical branch.
It has allowed every professor of three disciplines - radiotherapy, medical oncology and surgical oncology - to teach three students as against the present norm of two. In addition, associate professors across all specialities will be allowed to take on two students under their guidance as against the current one. Assistant professors who qualify to be associate professors will now also be allowed to train one student.
MBBS doctors across 21 states in India are undergoing a yearlong capsule course in oncology. They are being trained on early detection of cancer symptoms and to deliver chemotherapy.
The oncologists who staff India's hospitals are fighting a tough battle against cancer with few resources and a lot of nerve. Hundreds of these medical professionals have managed to give cancer therapy a more hopeful face. TOI-Crest picks ten who shine as beacons for the next generation of oncologists.
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