The government is set to roll out a screening programme for cancer, hypertension and diabetes in 100 districts later this week.
The programme aims to screen people aged above 30 for oral cancer and women aged above 30 for breast and cervical cancer. As per the protocol finalised by Health Ministry, which would be unveiled by Health Minister J P Nadda Wednesday, people would also be screened for hypertension and diabetes. The programme would be conducted by trained nurses and auxilliary nurse midwives at primary health centres or sub-centres.
Those detected with cancer will be treated in community health centres or district hospitals, as required. Most detected with hypertension or diabetes would need to be prescribed drugs which the government hopes to make available at primary health centres and sub-centres free of cost. Some cancer drugs would be available for free, said sources in Health Ministry.
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With an estimated target population of 7 lakh in each district, an initial allocation of Rs 5 lakh has been made for each of them.
In a health sector review meeting on March 14, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given the ministries of health and family welfare and AYUSH three months to come up with a framework for a nationwide screening programme for cancer, diabetes and heart diseases by June this year. As per government estimates, the overall prevalence of diabetes, hypertension, Ischemic Heart Diseases and stroke is 62.47, 1,59.46, 37 and 1.54, respectively per 1,000 people in India. There are an estimated 25 lakh cancer cases in India. Pre-cancerous lesions/ growths in mouth, cervix and breast can be detected early enough to prevent a full-blown case of cancer.
As per the protocol, in the current programme, a vinegar-based test which was presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s 2013 meeting, will be used for cervical cancer screening. Hence, training of healthcare personnel would be crucial for its success.
“The programme will initially be rolled out in the 100 districts where the National Programme for Prevention of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke was launched. Frontline health workers will be trained. The change in screening protocol is basically that while in NPPCDCS we were essentially doing opportunistic screening, we will now gradually move to a regime of population-based screening. The costs per person would come to less than Rs 60 for screening but training is crucial,” said a senior health ministry official.
NPPCDCS was launched in 2010, but cancer screening, according to sources, never took off due to lack of trained personnel.