The state government is aiming to screen one crore people across Maharashtra’s 36 districts to detect new cases of oral cancer. The campaign, which will start from December 1 and continue for a month, would be the first-ever large-scale screening for the disease in the state.
The state government already runs a National Program for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardio-vascular Disease and Stroke (NPCDCS) that was started by central government in 2010. Across Maharashtra, 17 districts screen people for cancer, along with other non-communicable diseases.
“This time, we will expand to all the districts to look for oral cancer cases. Physical examination by doctors will help detect possible cancer cases which will be referred for confirmatory tests,” said Dr Sadhana Tayade, the Joint Director with the Directorate of Health Services (DHS).
The campaign aims to screen rural and tribal population for physical symptoms of oral cancer through trained doctors, midwives, ASHA workers and health posts staff. State health minister Deepak Sawant wanted to push for early screening and detection of oral cancer that forms bulk of cancer cases in the country. “Early detection can help treat oral cancer completely. Most cases are diagnosed in an advanced stage, when cancer cells spread to other parts,” said Dr B D Pawar, a joint director with the DHS.
According to the state health department, under the NPCDCS, 17.88 million people have already been screened, from 17 districts of the state, since the program started. Of them 9,181 were detected with some form of cancer. Under another program called “Cancer Warrior”, the state conducted out-patient department screening for 10,687 people across Maharashtra and 3,626 of them were diagnosed with cancer.
The state government is gradually shifting its focus from infectious diseases to non-communicable diseases (NCD) with plans to expand the NPCDCS to all districts in this fiscal. “Non-communicable diseases are responsible for 68 per cent deaths, with heart diseases, stroke, hypertension and diabetes the biggest causes of mortality,” Tayade said.
Apart from cancer, the state government has found that 14 per cent of the 16.2 million screened population has hypertension and 8 per cent has diabetes. “But adherence to treatment of these diseases is low, since they are asymptomatic. We are still collating data on that,” Tayade added.