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State hopes to make cancer care affordable to all; here's the plan...

Patients sleeping on the road outside Tata Memorial Hospital in Parel, waiting as their near and dear ones undergo treatment, could soon be thing of the past. The tertiary cancer care centre along with the Maharashtra government is launching a project called 'Affordable Cancer Care for All'. The project will be funded by global pharmaceutical company Mylan with an aim to provide cancer care at the district-level in Maharashtra.

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Patients sleeping on the road outside Tata Memorial Hospital in Parel, waiting as their near and dear ones undergo treatment, could soon be thing of the past. The tertiary cancer care centre along with the Maharashtra government is launching a project called 'Affordable Cancer Care for All'. The project will be funded by global pharmaceutical company Mylan with an aim to provide cancer care at the district-level in Maharashtra.

The two-phase project

In phase I, doctors, nurses and technicians working in district hospitals will be trained and sensitised so that they can create awareness about cancer and help in its early detection. In phase II, training in surgical oncology will be provided to doctors.

The hospital has also formed a group of 57 doctors called the Maharashtra Cancer Warriors who will be carrying out awareness programmes in districts across the state.

Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, professor, head and neck surgeon at Tata hospital, said, "We have handpicked doctors who have studied at Tata and are now working in different districts of Maharashtra. They are committed to providing voluntary services for cancer prevention, awareness and treatment."

Early detection will be an important focus of the programme. "When patients come to Tata they are already in stages 3 or 4. Care at the district level can help to identify serious cases faster," said Dr KS Sharma, director of academics at Tata.

Government Medical College and Hospital in Aurangabad already has 100 beds and is functioning as a cancer hospital.

Role for AYUSH

Apart from allopathic treatment, the government will also be looking for ways to incorporate AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homoeopathy). "If we can combine AYUSH with the existing treatment, it might be able to help patients mentally," said Sujata Saunik, principal secretary, state department of health. "Cancer is no longer something that happens to other people. Each one of us knows someone affected by cancer."

Phase I

Training of doctors in 24 district hospitals in the state, sensitising them
Goal: Reduction in cases by spreading awareness and early detection of cancer

Phase II

Training doctors in surgical oncology in six districts
Districts where phase II will be rolled out are...
Pune (Aundh)
Nagpur
Nashik
Amravati
Jalgaon
Gadchiroli

Load reduction

Doctors hope that eventually the district hospitals will become hubs for cancer care and only the rarest of the rare cases will be referred to Tata hospital.
While Tata will be providing the expertise for the project, the existing public infrastructure for health care in Maharashtra will be used for the project with funding from Mylan.
Phase I has been kick-started with the help of Maharashtra Cancer Warriors; its completion is likely to take around two years.

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