Two crore people screened for oral cancer across Maharashtra

The state has an ongoing national programme for prevention and control of cancer, diabetes, cardio-vascular disease and stroke.

As many as 2 crore people were screened as part of an ambitious month-long oral cancer detection programme in the state. Of them, 3 lakh people were detected with pre-malignant conditions and referred to district hospitals for further investigations to rule out oral cancer.

Dr Sadhana Tayade, joint director of health (non communicable diseases), Maharashtra told The Indian Express that the campaign to detect oral cancer was undertaken in December and was among the largest ones for screening of a disease in the state.

The entire machinery was geared to undertake this exercise across 36 districts. People were examined for symptoms like red and white patches in the mouth, ulcers and those who were unable to open their mouth fully. “It is not necessary that these people have cancer but we have identified at least 3 lakh such people with these conditions. The second phase will focus on investigations like biopsy and other lab tests to confirm if there is a malignancy,” Dr Tayade said.

Specialists will be sent to district hospitals and patients will be referred here for further examination, Dr Tayade said admitting that it was a tedious procedure and will take some time. According to experts at Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai, several factors like increase in population, longevity, lack of physical activity and urbanisation of rural areas are likely to double the number of cancer cases by 2030.

State Health Minister Deepak Sawant wanted to specially push for early screening and detection of oral cancer, which forms the bulk of cancer cases in the country. The minister had actively taken a series of steps post former home minister RR Patil’s death due to oral cancer that was linked to chewing of tobacco. Last year, he had made a strong case for banning chewing tobacco and referred to it as a “poison” that should not be sold to people. Early detection is crucial to cure oral cancer, Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, head and neck surgeon at Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai, said.

According to Dr Sanjay Deshmukh, Deputy Director of Health, Pune circle, 14 lakh persons were screened for symptoms of oral cancer in Pune, Solapur and Satara districts. “We have identified 6,240 persons who have symptoms and will conduct further investigations to rule out cancer,” Dr Deshmukh said.

Population based screening for diabetes, hypertension

The state has an ongoing national programme for prevention and control of cancer, diabetes, cardio-vascular disease and stroke. Initially four districts had been identified Satara, Bhandara, Sindhudurg and Wardha for population based screening of diabetes and hypertension.

“This year, we will extend population based screening for another 12 districts and Accredited Social Health Activists and other multi-purpose workers are being trained,” Dr Tayade said. There has been a shift in focus from infectious to non-communicable diseases which account for 68 per cent deaths, state health officials said. Adherence to treatment for diseases like diabetes and hypertension is low as they are asymptomatic and hence a population based screening of these diseases will now help us generate data, she added.

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