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Indian cancer care scenario bleak as 50% patients forced to pay out of pocket

Nandita Vijay, Bengaluru
Saturday, February 2, 2019, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

India depicts a grim reality in cancer care as 50 per cent of patients pay out of pocket for treatment. A majority of oncologists see cancer incidences to increase by about 25 per cent in the next 5 years. Among the cancer types, breast, lung, oral, and cervical will see a greater proportion of incidence. Yet another challenge is detection of the disease is at an advanced stage.

Currently, a standard cancer treatment for early and advanced stage costs about Rs. 4.5 lakh. Metastatic stage cancer treatment costs about Rs. 6 lakh. The financial burden increases sharply if a patient opts for advanced therapy. Across all cancer types, advanced treatment is pegged at Rs. 10 lakh for locally advanced stage and about Rs. 14 lakh for metastatic stage.

Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance with Ipsos Research, conducted a study with 100 oncologists across 15 cities to assess the state of cancer care in India and its impact on the patients. It interviewed 100 oncologists across 15 cities in India. These doctors consult an average of 406 patients every month. The research focused on incidence, diagnosis, treatment, survival, and cost of treatment. The study reveals a shocking picture as nearly 75 per cent patients are either uninsured or inadequately insured to fund the medical expenditures.

“The financial impact of cancer is glaring. While there are advanced treatments available, the staggering cost makes it unaffordable for several patients. Through this study, we highlighted the economic burden created by cancer care and create awareness that a simple tool like insurance can be one’s friend during such a challenging time,” said Sumit Rai, MD & CEO, Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance.

According to Dr Sandeep Nayak- Senior Consultant Surgical Oncologist -Laparoscopy &Robotic Onco Surgery - Fortis Hospital, delivery of affordable and equitable cancer care is one of India's greatest public health challenges. The treatment cost for cancer has gone up exponentially making it inaccessible to consult top hospitals due to narrow insurance plan coverage. Therefore, comprehensive medical insurance against cancer must also cover newer drugs, techniques and technology that make treatment less painful.
Increase in lifespan is one of the causes of rising cancer risks in our population. The longer we live, higher the chance for developing genetic mutations with resultant cancer development. Lack of awareness is a major hurdle in implementing prevention programs in third world countries like ours. India can tackles the growing burden with health packages which should include cancer screening as, noted Dr Mathangi J, Senior Consultant & In-Charge, Department of Radiation Oncology, BGS Gleneagles Global Hospitals, Bengaluru.

On the occasion of the world cancer day observed on February 4, Bengaluru-based Vikram Hospital unveiled its Home Care Service. The move was intended to support patients as the latest figures from the population based cancer registry of Indian Council of Medical Research, indicates Bengaluru accounts for the highest number of cancer cases in India with 113 males and 139 female per 100,000 population.

This is where we sighted the huge demand for oncology home care as a large subset of patients on palliative care need pain management, supportive care and medical review from time to time and cannot travel to hospital. Our home care service’ will include basic intravenous drugs, safer chemotherapy, pain and palliative care, said Dr. Somesh Mittal, managing director & CEO, Vikram Hospital.


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