The North-East could well become the country’s cancer hotspot with health experts cautioning that the number of new cases in the region is likely to increase to 57,131 by 2025 in comparison to the estimated 50,317 in 2020.
Citing the report by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research (NCDIR), Bengaluru, which was released on Thursday on the occasion of World Cancer Day, the experts said that there is a need to focus on early diagnosis and prevention of cancer.
As per the report ‘Profile of cancer and related health indicators in the Northeast Region of India’, in all the States, the incidence of cancer was higher in males than in females except in Manipur and Sikkim. The commonly occurring cancers among males were cancer of the oesophagus (13.6 per cent) and lung (10.9 per cent), while in females, cancer of the breast was the leading site (14.5 per cent), followed by that of cervix uteri (12.2 per cent).
The highest incidence rate in males (269.4 per 100,000 population) was recorded in Aizawl district in Mizoram and among females (219.8 per 100,000) in Papumpare district in Arunachal Pradesh.
The proportion of tobacco-related cancers was 49.3 per cent in males and 22.8 per cent in females, said the report.
At the time of diagnosis of breast, cervix, head and neck, stomach and lung cancers, less than one-third were localised, while the remaining were spread either nearby or distantly in the body. The proportion of cancer patients seeking treatment outside the north east was highest for Sikkim (95.3 per cent) and Nagaland (58. Per cent).
“The report has given us valuable insights into the prevailing risk factors of cancer - all the stakeholders must now come together to fight its increasing incidence,” said Dr GK Rath, Head of AIIMS, BRAIRCH and NCI, Jhajjar.
The Report also includes data from seven hospital-based cancer registries (HBCRs) in Assam, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura from 2012 to 2016.
“The scientific evidence generated from the registries has led to strengthening of health infrastructure in the region and will provide the guidance for future policy decisions,” Dr Balram Bhargava, Director General, ICMR, said in a statement.
Terming it as a wakeup call amid Carona pandemic, Dr Rahul Bhargava, Director-Bone Marrow Transplant Programme, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram strongly felt that cancer patients need to be given priority for vaccination.
“We know that the most vulnerable group is people who have suffered cancer or are undergoing chemotherapy. They should get vaccination on a priority basis so that they continue with the chemotherapy treatment. However, they must consult their doctors for the type of vaccine and timing of the vaccine inoculation so that they can develop the adequate amount of antibodies before they take chemotherapy.”
Besides providing cancer data, the ICMR report also gives insight into the prevailing cancer risk factor profile capacity for treating cancer and death statistics for each state from various sources. Among the eight northeast states, current tobacco use was highest in Tripura at 64.5 per cent and lowest in Sikkim at 17.9 per cent.
Men (59 per cent) and women (26.3 per cent) from Arunachal Pradesh, who were over 15 years of age, consumed higher proportions of alcohol than in other NE states while the prevalence of obesity among women aged 15-49 years was highest in Sikkim (34.7 per cent) followed by Manipur (34.1 per cent). In contrast, in men, it was highest in Sikkim (36.3 per cent) and lowest in Meghalaya (13.9 per cent).
The report said Sikkim had the highest prevalence of hypertension in men (41.6 per cent) and women (34.5 per cent), followed by Manipur (men 33.2 per cent and women 23.0 per cent).