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Opening doors to high quality care

/ August 29, 2016 /

In a developing country like India, cancer is regarded as a major problem. The GLOBOCAN report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer states that the burden of cancer in our nation may almost double from an incidence of about 1 million cases in 2012 to 1.7 million in 2035. What is more alarming is that the number of cancer-related deaths is expected to rise from 6,80,000 in 2012 to about 1.2 million in 2035. It is against this backdrop that the National Cancer Grid (NCG) was established in 2012 with the vision of devising uniform treatment protocol for cancer patients and liaising between various cancer care centres in India.

Apart from aiming to create uniform standards of patient care across the nation, NCG’s focus is also on making high quality cancer care readily available to patients, increasing human resource capabilities in cancer care management and aiding collaborative research in cancer. The number of cancer centres under the radar of NCG has shot up from 14 in 2012 to 85 in 2016. This August, four years after NCG was established, Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH), Mumbai, initiated a virtual platform where cancer centres across India could share their respective patient data. This is an important step ahead as it facilitates the mapping of cancer patterns and will also bring up national data on the disease, which in turn would be elemental in studies of cancer prevention.

Doctors from 85 cancer centres across India assembled at TMH to exchange views on new initiatives to be undertaken by centres functioning under NCG. Among several plans that were laid down to make standardised cancer care available to all, data sharing was the key highlight. After the website launch, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Director General, Indian Council for Medical Research, said, “We are in the era of evidence and data-driven strategies. This kind of data sharing would potentially give larger numbers to analyse.” NCG coordinator, Dr C S Pramesh said that the website would also have focused databases on cancer type and digital medical records. The data would be shared freely, keeping the identity of the patient confidential.

Dr Pramesh had earlier said that although cancer centres existed all over the country, they had different standards of care. With the adoption of standardisation, the availability of high quality cancer care across India would eliminate the need for patients to travel long distances or move to metropolitan cities for treatment. Another prime focus area of NCG is palliative care. “Every NCG centre should have a palliative unit,” said Dr Pramesh. “This would entail increasing palliative care training for specialists and oncologists.” A set of 22 guidelines to treat common cancers has been proposed and put up on the website, which is open to comments for three months. After this time period, they will be adopted as organisation guidelines for NCG.

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