There is a huge shortage of trained oncologists in India that is hindering early screening of cancer in people affected by the disease, top doctors said.
They also pitched for giving training to general practitioners and other doctors to detect early warning signs so as to address the disease in curable stage before it becomes malignant.
Over 700 delegates from around 15 foreign countries have gathered here for a four-day global conference on head-neck cancer, organised by International Federation of Head and Neck Oncologic Societies (IFHNOS) and Foundation for Head-Neck Oncology (FHNO).
India faces a huge burden of cancer with 11 lakh incidences per year. And 2.5-3 lakh cases are of head and neck cancer. Over 80 per cent of head and neck cancer are caused by tobacco alone.
“We have a huge shortage of trained oncologists in the country. And that is why it is necessary that general practitioners and dentists and other doctors are trained in basic screening techniques to detect warning signs of cancer,” said Dr Alok Thakar, professor of head-neck surgery and otorhinolaryngology at the AIIMS.
Dr Anil D’Cruz, Director of Mumbai-based Tata Memorial Centre, said, “I have operated on a cancer patient as young as an 8-year-old boy. He was chewing tobacco from time when he was four. And, so it is important that we see warning signs before they assume menacing form.”
“Common danger signs of head-neck cancer are white spots inside the mouth, discolouring of the mouth, difficulty in swallowing,” he said.
“27 per cent male population is affected by head-neck cancer while its incidence is 10-12 per cent in women. In foreign countries, lung cancer is more prevalent, as people smoke more tobacco than chew it, unlike in India, where every nook and cranny sells chewable tobacco in the open,” Thakar said.
Another senior doctor from AIIMS said, “In the northeast, women consume more chewable tobacco and oral cancer cases are more in females than males.