With only 13% completed, the study finds 1.3 lakh possible cases of breast cancer in Kerala.

So far, more than 1.5 lakh cancer patients suspected of having cancer have been found in the state thanks to the health department’s house-to-house screening. Of them, over 1.3 lakh have received referrals for breast cancer, over 21,000 referrals for cervical cancer and nearly 8,000 referrals for oral cancer screening.

Given that the study included just over 13% of the 1.6 million adults over 30 who were the target population, the numbers are significant. The initial survey serves as a guide to identify those at risk for lifestyle disorders such as diabetes and heart disease, as well as cancer. It is possible that fewer people have the confirmed diseases.

However, medical professionals describe it as a significant discovery that reduces the burden of disease. The state is known for having a large number of sick patients. Its impact was felt during Covid when numerous patients required longer hospital stays and some of them died.

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On December 7 last year, the Department of Health began the survey to estimate the prevalence of noncommunicable diseases and implement early control measures. “Because of delayed testing, a significant proportion of the population is unaware of their risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure or early-stage cancer.” according to dr Bipin K. Gopal, country coordinator for the district cancer control program and node officer for noncommunicable diseases, the survey helps in early identification of such individuals.

The three types of cancer that were the subject of the survey were mouth, cervix and breast. When a respondent ticks symptoms such as breast lumps and genital bleeding “yes,” the assessor flags them for further investigation. The topic of oral cancer refers to the presence of white patches in the mouth. However, sending a patient for cancer screening does not mean that the disease has been detected. “We cannot afford to miss a single case of cancer. So if it is determined that the person has any of the indicated symptoms, they will be sent for screening. These tumors can be treated effectively when they are found,” said Dr. Gopal.

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Only people with a community checklist score of four or higher are considered for screening for other lifestyle diseases. An Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA), a community health professional, conducts the survey in a specific area. The nearest public health facility will do the screening.

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Doctors then send some patients to different facilities to have confirmatory tests done on them. By October, the department hopes to announce final confirmation results. The survey is conducted annually by the agency to monitor the health of those over 30. A cancer registry is being created as part of the e-health project, with the aim of improving outcomes by 2030. “The survey will assist the state in developing more effective health policies. The results of the survey can be used for the distribution and purchase of medicines. Community-level therapies can be used when the prevalence of NCDs is high in a particular location,” said Dr. B. Krishnakumar, Professor of Cardiology at Thiruvananthapuram Medical College Hospital.

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