Updated: December 27, 2016 6:13:46 am
For 52-year-old tea vendor Hiralal Lodhi, it was nothing short of miracle to visit a train in Satna on December 22 to consult oncosurgeons for advanced mouth cancer and to undergo surgery in a railway compartment two days later to remove the tumour that had bloated his jaws and cheeks for two years. Lodhi became the first patient to be operated in India for a cancer surgery on a train, called ‘Lifeline Express’, parked at Satna Junction in Madhya Pradesh until December 28.
The train, a joint initiative of Tata Memorial Hospital, Ministry of Railways and NGO Impact India, will run the length and breadth of the country to extend cancer care in remote parts.
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Lodhi lives in Pipari Kala village in Madhya Pradesh and earns Rs 700 every month from a roadside tea stall. In the last six months, as the cancerous growth grew from a tiny boil to a lump on his jawline, he faced difficulty in swallowing and talking. “He had spent Rs 20,000 on treatment in Jabalpur. When doctors asked him for more money and he had nothing left, he returned to the village,” his neighbour Alok Pratap Singh said.
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Lodhi has a vast expanse of farm lands but meagre earnings from it. He spent the last six months borrowing money from villagers. Last week neighbour Singh heard that a train full of doctors, offering free medical treatment, will park itself for a week 20 kms away in Satna. Together, the two travelled for screening and check-up in the Lifeline Express.
“He had entered fourth stage of mouth cancer. We conducted a surgery spanning five hours for free,” said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, head and neck surgeon at Tata Hospital in Mumbai. According to him, two new coaches have been added to Lifeline Express for “intense interventive cancer operations” after a decision to extend cancer care through this train was taken last year.
The train, running for a quarter century now, has been catering to disabled cases, done cleft lip surgeries, conducted catarct operations and held routine camps in remote villages. On December 8, Union Health Minister J P Nadda inaugurated its two new cancer care coaches.
Since December 24, five cancer surgeries have been conducted in the new coaches— which have an operation table in the center and a metal table for instruments. Operation theatre lights and computerised systems have been installed for surgery. In the entire train, 450 surgeries have been conducted at Satna junction for various ailments.
In January, the Lifeline Express will travel to Warangal in Telangana, and to Palamu district, Jharkhand, in February. Lodhi is currently recuperating at Birla Hospital and Cancer Research Center where he will further require chemotherapy.
The train will focus on providing breast, oral and cervical cancer treatment for the 70 per cent Indian population that resides in villages. According to Dr Rajendra Badwe, director at Tata Memorial Hospital, in rural India 40-50 per lakh are diagnosed with cancer every year.
In women, breast cancer has doubled and cervical cancer has reduced from 30 per lakh to 10 per lakh population. Though there is some reduction in head and neck cancer due to ban on tobacco in some states, oral cancer accounts for the largest cancer chunk in India.
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