Many patients die as result of late diagnosis

Many patients die as result of late diagnosis

Feb 3, 2015-

World Cancer Day is being marked on Wednesday. On this occasion, the Post Development Bureau caught up with Dr Prakash Neupane, the chief of Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital, to talk about different aspects of cancer and its treatment in Nepal. Excerpts:

What is the state of cancer in Nepal?

Each year the incidence of Cancer is increasing. As cancer remains a major problem worldwide, Nepal is no exception. The deaths associated with communicable disease are decreasing while the deaths due to non-communicable disease are increasing. Cancer is one of the major causes of death. While there have not been any study to determine the exact number of cancer sufferers in the country, what we know is that at least 50 percent of the cancer patients are seeing doctors and the rest are dying at home without proper treatment. Cardiovascular diseases and cancer are responsible for nearly 70 percent of the deaths under non communicable disease. Although early diagnosis of cancer is happening, there are many patients who seek medical advice by the time it is too late. We can see a huge gap in our treatment system if we compare our facilities with that of western countries. But compared to the past, the improvements in service is encouraging.

The country is still struggling to contain diseases such as diarrhoea and dysentery, and a large number of newborns die every day. Why is it so important for the government to focus its effort in cancer while it is already grappling with other diseases?

If you look at the data, at least 20,000 people die of cancer every year, while the number of cancer patients seeking medical help stands at around 35,000. If you compare the deaths due to other diseases, cancer stands out significantly. Also, people dying due to cancer are in the 30-50 years age bracket. This is the most productive years of their lives, when they could contribute significantly to the society. This loss is really saddening. Cancer related deaths are far more than the deaths caused by diarrhoea, dysentery, HIV and TB combined. Currently the government is providing Rs 100,000 each to cancer patients. This has relieved many people who otherwise would have died without treatment. The government has been providing half a million to kidney and heart patients as well. Since the danger of cancer is more than that of kidney and heart diseases, the government should increase the support for cancer patients to at least Rs 150,000.

What is the present scenario of cancer treatment in Nepal? Can people rely on our services fully?

It is satisfactory. We have made a tremendous improvement. But compared to developed countries, we are still lagging behind. As for the care and services that we have been offering, it varies depending upon the cancer and the stage it is diagnosed. Treatment for breast are skin cancers are equally good in Nepal, but when it comes to lungs or blood cancers, we are far behind. But if diagnosed at early stage, any cancer can be cured here.

Why do people prefer to go to India or abroad for cancer treatment then?

I blame the politicians for this. Even when they suffer from minor diseases like viral fever, they go to India or aboard for treatment. Unfortunately, they have become bad role models. I don’t claim we are excellent, but I can assure that in many cancers, say of  breast or skin, we have the same output as the western countries.  

Is the number of cancer patients increasing or is it just that we have more cases getting reported?

I believe the number has not increased significantly compared to a decade earlier, but the number of patients visiting doctors is definitely increasing. In the past, over 80 percent of the cancer patients did not visit hospitals. This number has gone down to 40-50 percent today, thanks to increased awareness.

Published: 03-02-2015 09:00

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