If we stick to figures and statistics, India tops or nearly tops the world ranking in cancer incidence, prevalence, and death. If we give a face to this statistic, it begs an answer for only one question: “Why is it happening to me?” Cancer in India has never been so rampant and destructive than it is now. With the disappearing family support system, the plight of the individual and their dependents is miserable. The task before the government, support services, NGOs, and healthcare providers has become even more complex with also having to combat fear and build hope in the battle against cancer. This is a herculean task given the fact that survival rates in India are poor(1).
For far too long, cancer has attracted large-scale institutional involvement and governmental intervention by means of communication materials, screening camps, etc. In villages, connecting residents with health information, resources, and basic services has made great inroads. It is time knowledge dissemination takes place a bit more radically to help people overcome their fears and misgivings about cancer. Such a step should involve cancer survivors, care givers, friends, healthcare workers, teachers and students who can motivate, give perspective, and influence change. One can take a leaf from the hugely successful Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) program, wherein it has been reported that patients trust such health workers much more than others because they are from the community(2).
Having a community initiative will help in spreading awareness and curbing incidences of late detection by taking a strike at the root of the problem: taboos, ignorance, and fatalism associated with the lower socio-economic background of patients(3). A well-planned treatment pathway is required, from prevention to early detection and complete treatment with a holistic approach involving the community which could lead to prevention of more than one-third of cancers. With rural folk being the most affected lot than their urban counterpart, community-led awareness initiative backed by a good training program is the need of the hour. The community serves as the bond, providing the necessary psychological support to patients and connecting them to family health centres.
While strides in research and innovation have made cancer treatment impactful, more progress can be made if we can involve the community in improving cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and care. In fact, creating a future without cancer depends on our success in reducing fear, dispelling myths, and changing behaviours and attitudes. From extending support to the people fighting cancer to spreading awareness regarding this disease, the change begins from within, remember, the cure for cancer starts with you.
(1)http://cancerindia.org.in/indias-reverse-trend-women-cancer-men/ (2)https://medium.com/the-echo-effect/cancer-screening-in-india-sharing-knowledge-to-combat-fear-and-build-hope-8e6cedff79e3 (3)https://www.india.com/lifestyle/world-cancer-day-2018-why-india-has-third-highest-number-of-cancer-cases-among-women-2875722/