Just 13% done, survey detects 1.3 lakh suspect breast cancer cases in Kerala- The New Indian Express

Express Message Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The health department’s door-to-door survey has so far identified over 1.5 lakh patients with suspected cancer in the state. Of them, over 1.3 lakh were referred for breast cancer, over 21,000 for cervical cancer and nearly 8,000 for oral cancer screening. The numbers are meaningful as the survey captured just over 13% of the target population of 1.6 million people aged 30 and over.

The initial survey will be used as a guide to identify people at risk of developing cancer and other lifestyle diseases, including diabetes and heart disease. The actual number of people with confirmed illnesses may be lower. However, health experts call it an important discovery that will help reduce the burden of disease. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women, while cervical cancer has a high death rate due to the delay in detection.

It is known that the state has a large number of sick patients. The impact was felt during Covid when several people had prolonged stays in hospitals and some of them died. The health department launched the survey on December 7 last year to assess the extent of NCDs and intervene early to control them.

“A large proportion of people do not know whether they have diabetes, high blood pressure or the first symptoms of cancer because they have not been tested earlier. The survey helps to find such patients early on,” said Dr. Bipin K. Gopal, State Node Commissioner for Noncommunicable Diseases and State Coordinator of the District Cancer Control Program.

The survey focused on three types of cancer: breast, cervical and oral cancer. The assessor identifies a person for screening if they say yes to symptoms such as a breast lump and bleeding during intercourse. In oral cancer, the question arises as to the presence of white spots in the mouth. However, sending a patient in for cancer screening does not mean the disease has been confirmed.

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Screening: I can’t afford to miss a single cancer case, doctor says

“If the person is found to have any of the cancer symptoms listed, they will be sent for screening as we cannot afford to miss a single case. If detected, these cancers are highly treatable,” said Dr. Gopal. For other lifestyle diseases, only people with a community-based assessment checklist score of four or more are eligible for screening.

The one-site survey will be conducted by an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA), a community health worker. The screening will be carried out at the nearest public health center. Doctors then refer selected patients to other hospitals for confirmatory testing. The department plans to release final confirmation results by October.

The department plans to conduct the survey every year to track the health of people over the age of 30. The e-health project is developing a cancer registry with a focus on improving outcomes by 2030.

“The survey will help the state formulate better health policies. The information from the survey can be used in procurement and distribution of medicines. When the prevalence of NCDs is high in a particular area, action can be taken at the community level,” said Dr. B. Krishnakumar, Professor, Department of Cardiology, Thiruvananthapuram Medical College Hospital.

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