50% oral cancer patients die within a year: Tata study | Kolkata News – Times of India

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KOLKATA: A first-of-its-kind study on the ‘cost of illness analysis of oral cancer’, conducted by Tata Memorial Centre in Mumbai, reveals that half of oral cancer patients in India die within a year of diagnosis and are aged between 30-50 years, leading to a huge productivity loss for the country.
Conducted on 100 consecutive oral cancer patients who sought treatment at the hospital between October 2019 and March 2020, the study points out that most of those who receive some form of treatment are left unemployed and become an economic burden on their families. A majority of those who succumb are lone earning members, leaving their families in dire straits, the study observed.
The annual cost of treatment on oral cancer patients comes to more than Rs 200 crore.
“This is just the hospital expense. Add to this the amount thousands of oral cancer patients spend on travelling and accommodation while seeking treatment at Tata Memorial or other hospitals across India. Also, since most oral cancer victims belong to the working population, there is also a big productivity loss happening every year,” said Pankaj Chaturvedi, surgeon, department of head and neck surgery at Tata Memorial Centre who led a team of experts for the study.
The study says that even patients with health insurance and/or government aid, typically seen as immune to the cost of healthcare, face serious challenges as most schemes do not provide the actual amount needed for treatment. This eventually increases their out-of-pocket expenses, pushing a significant proportion of patients and their families into a cycle of debt.
About 60-80% of oral cancer patents visit their specialist oncologists at advanced stages. Multiplying the cost per unit of early and advanced cancer as per the study’s results, India spent approximately Rs 2,386 crores in 2020 on oral cancer treatment, paid for by insurance schemes, government and private sector spending, out-of-pocket payments and charitable donations or a combination of these.
This is a significant portion of the healthcare budget allocation the government made in 2019-20 towards a single disease, says the study. Without any inflation in costs, this will result in an economic burden on the country of Rs 23,724 crores over the next 10 years, it projects.
“This straining economic impact of treating oral cancer treatment, strongly suggests that prevention must be one of the key mitigation strategies. Almost all oral cancers are caused by some form of tobacco and areca nut use, either direct or as a second-hand intake. It is very important to take measures to curb this menace and mitigate the economic burden caused by just one of the hundreds of diseases caused by tobacco consumption,” said Chaturvedi.
Early detection strategies leading to just 20% reduction in advanced stage disease could save almost Rs 250 crores annually, the study claimed. Physicians, dentists and all healthcare workers are the first-line of detection where screening of high-risk individuals such as tobacco and areca nut users can be performed, the study suggests.
“Institutions also play a key role by following up screened patients, actioning tobacco de-addiction strategies and providing timely care and support. At the administration and government level, stronger reforms can strengthen the existing policies around the prohibition of cancer causing substances, building infrastructure and access for patients, and providing evidence based insurances and reimbursements for those in need,” the study adds.



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