Aiming for a technology-led cancer moonshot and groundshot in India
By Dr. Aju Mathew, Senior Medical Advisor, Karkinos Healthcare
Women in general, especially mothers, sacrifice their own well-being in the interest of their families. They tend to prioritize their family members’ wellness over their own health, mostly because of their socio-economic status and their feeling of being indispensable to their family.
Day in and day out, I encounter several such women. Recently, a middle-aged woman — a single working mother of two college going girls — consulted me for clinical guidance on observing a lump in her breast. She had observed this lump in her breast for over a year. By this time, her disease was not limited to the breast – it had turned into a Stage IV cancer.
Now, there were two reasons for her procrastination in seeking a medical consultation. First, she did not want to travel to a hospital that would cost her time and money. She felt it was wiser to educate her daughters than divest it into getting herself a health checkup for the lump. Second, she said hospitals in far-away cities frightened her. Sadly, these fears and concerns pushed her cancer to an untreatable stage.
Oncologists like me are personally hurt and feel miserable when we see easily curable cancers steal mothers and fathers away from families. It is unfortunate that we still lose lives to cancer from neglect, ignorance, and poverty.
The National Cancer Awareness Day on November 7th, each year, marks as a day for India’s stakeholders in cancer care to take stock of the rising incidence in common cancers and the need for improved solutions to instill the awareness and assure men and women that early diagnosis is one of the key factors to preventing cancer related morbidity and mortality.
One of my studies, published in the Lancet Oncology, found that more than half of the families struggling with a diagnosis of cancer go through catastrophic health expenditures or financial ruin1. Rising incidence of cancer along with high prevalence of risk factors for cancer create a dangerous setting that can burden our health systems and the economy 2,3. Currently, we also see a disproportionate distribution in terms of access to health personnel, where rural areas are deprived of oncologists, surgeons, onco-nurses and other support staff or public health workers4.
The need of the hour is to educate people on the advantages of early diagnosis. It is this need that Karkinos Healthcare is trying to enforce, using the most sophisticated digital technology-based tools. Although in the field of medicine, humane care gains prominence over technological deployment, making cancer care accessible and affordable is today’s necessary evil. Through its idealistic, yet perfectly achievable goal of distributed cancer care, using technology, Karkinos Healthcare is laying the foundations for a cancer groundshot and moonshot in the rural and urban landscapes across India.
Groundshot is achieved by providing screening services, diagnostic facilities and treatment protocols where patients can easily access them. Moonshot is aimed through the advanced laboratory services and genomic sequencing facilities for harnessing the power of precision medicine, virtual tumor boards and patient-centered research5.
Clearly, such a revolution in cancer care requires various factors to be aligned in a perfect manner such as patient willingness to change their preconceived notions and mindsets (like ‘best care is at the biggest hospital’); prudent use of governmental funds at high quality private centers; the health system always placing the best interest of the patient at the center of its mission and vision; and greater adoption of the value-mindset in cancer care6.
At the end of the day, such a revolution must aim to wipe away the tears from women, who refrain from taking care of their own health due to lack of access or affordability. Nobody deserves to face the specter of death from the emperor of all maladies. We can and we must conquer this disease.