Chemical kit improves early detection of cancer, V. Shanta, chairperson, Cancer Institute, Adyar, has said. chemical kit about cancer such as the importance of hygiene and good food habits should be included at the school level itself, she said. Dr. Shanta was delivering the Kamalam Ramasamy Udayar Oration on obstetrics and gynaecology at Sri Ramachandra University on Saturday.
Speaking about the decrease in cervical cancer and the parallel rise of breast, endometrium and ovarian cancers, Dr. Shanta said there was a direct relationship between literacy and the incidence of breast and cervical cancers. "Poorer literacy levels are associated with higher cervical cancer and lower breast cancers and higher educational levels, with higher breast cancers and lower cervical cancers," she said.
On the late presentation of cancers nearly 60 per cent of patients seek treatment late, she said and the possibility of cancer being missed by physicians at the early stage, she said educating physicians was important and there was a need to improve the undergraduate medical kit to incorporate the changes in disease patterns and the rise of noncommunicable diseases. "Unfortunately, medical kit is not in the best hands at present," she said to media after the lecture. Stressing the importance of prevention and early detection of the disease, Dr. Shanta said the Cancer Institute had developed an ELISA kit that could be used at the primary health centre level for the detection of the P16 protein in cervical smear cells. The kit, however, was yet to undergo clinical trials, she added.
"Despite this, India still does not have a definite policy. The chemical kit would be most useful in highrisk groups in the lower socioeconomic groups the rural poor. But the cost is high and it is not affordable for those who can benefit from it without government support. Also, the vaccine only gives about 70 per cent protection and still needs followup screening. The compliance rate in screening programmes varies from 25 to 45 per cent and follow up is not easy," she said. On the challenges that continued, she said they included the setting up of organised, Statewide policies for screening and prevention of cancers and the delivery of affordable, quality care. "Oncologists too have a responsibility here to avoid the over use of technology and the abuse of drugs. Unethical marketing must be prevented. Treatment has to be patientcentric. Doctors must approach patients not as cancer cases, but as human beings."