CANCER, of which there are about 200 different kinds, is by far one of the most costly diseases to treat. With over 17 lakh cases a year, it forces six crore Indians below the poverty line annually. On World Health Day, we focus on NGOs who are trying to help the poorest cancer patients win their battle against this killer disease.
According to GLOBOCAN 2020, cancer caused the deaths of 100 lakh across the world last year of which nearly 8.8 lakh were Indians. With breast, lung and cervical cancer being the three most common cancers in the country, here are some sobering statistics:
- Every 8 minutes, one woman loses her life to cervical cancer in India
- In India, only 50% of the women diagnosed with breast cancer survive, the world average is 90%
- Smoking is the reason for 1 in 5 deaths in men and 1 in 20 deaths in women in India
- There are around 2.5 million people in India that are living with the disease
- Each year, more than 7 lakh cancer patients are registered in India
Here is a true story of what health inequity means for the ordinary Indian. One evening, a part-time teacher Malathi (name changed) from a small town in Chhattisgarh called her friend at Chennai, and wept continuously for the first five minutes. Upon enquiry, she informed that her father, a retired coal mine worker, was suffering from 3rd stage blood cancer.
The medical facilities at her place were not equipped enough to treat such patients. They were advised to visit Raipur, a bigger city nearby. There were excellent facilities there, but unfortunately, they were all beyond the affordability of Malathi’s family. Her father succumbed to the deadly disease, leaving everyone around pondering – does an economically challenged man have no rights to get proper treatment?
Thankfully, there are now several NGOs that are helping cancer patients in India. Here is our list –
Founded in 1951, Indian Cancer Society is the first NGO which started helping cancer patients in India. Established with the intention of creating awareness, detection and cure for cancer patients across the country, they have been continuously extending their support to many underprivileged cancer patients ever since their inception.
ICS runs several campaigns for creating awareness about the disease, risk factors, prevention, treatment options, and counsels patients and survivors. They also have mobile cancer detection camps, providing early screening to people. Apart from giving monetary support to the underprivileged, they also provide accommodation, therapy, and support groups for counselling.
ICS is the sole body among the Indian NGOs to run a cancer registry that provides detailed data and projected reports regarding the occurrence of cancer. The data is then dispersed to the medical community through publications in the Indian Journal of Cancer.
As one of India’s leading charitable institutions, HelpAge India has been helping disadvantaged elderly people since 1978 including providing medical facilities and helping them in case of abuse and neglect. The NGO has several liaisons at local, state and national levels, through which they promote policies for the elderly and their implementation.
HelpAge India has a special unit for cancer care, through which they have been supporting elderly cancer patients since 1998. So far they have supported the treatment of nearly 99,000 patients. In association with several organizations and cancer hospitals, this NGO for cancer patients in India also organizes cancer awareness and cancer detection programmes.
Headquartered at Chennai, DEAN aims at providing healthcare to the disadvantaged, vulnerable and homeless sections of the society by offering support to those suffering from deadly diseases such as cancer in and around Chennai, Tamil Nadu. These destitute patients, many suffering from acute and advanced stages of cancer, are potentially incurable and have practically no access to hospice and palliative care. The DEAN Foundation also caters to people with other similar terminal diseases such as AIDS.
Ever since their inception in 1998, this NGO for cancer patients in India have helped in treating more than 10,000 cancer patients. In their Paediatric Palliative Care Project, they have treated more than 1,500 children suffering from cancer. Their units for palliative and hospice care contain world class facilities, well-trained staff and enthusiastic volunteers with a great passion for work.
Charutar Arogya Mandal (CAM), is the brain-child of late Dr HM Patel, former Finance and Home Affairs Minister. He dreamed of a healthcare facility that offers premium and holistic services, without any kind of discrimination or marginalization. Now managing many medical and para-medical institutions, CAM was started as a small trust way back in 1972. Due to the philanthropic work done by the trust, it is now one of the leading NGOs for cancer patients in India.
The MS Patel Cancer Centre at Shree Krishna Hospital run by the trust aims to provide world class treatment at affordable prices to the underprivileged. They do not charge any fees for out-patient consultations, and offer generous discounts in their treatment cost to people living below the poverty line, destitute women and children. As per the Mukhyamantri Amrutam (MAA) and MAA Vatsalya Scheme, the trust provides treatment to the ostracised sections of the society for critical ailments such as cancer, cardiac problems, and many more.
Udhavum Ullangal literally translates to “helping hearts”. As the name suggests, this Chennai-based NGO helping cancer patients in India prefers to be referred to as a group of simple individuals that have an affinity for helping people in need. Through its various projects and initiatives, the team endeavours to bring a positive change to the marginalised sections of society in terms of health and education.
The NGO conducts medical education programmes each year, in association with the Department of Public Health, Government of Tamil Nadu. They also conduct cancer awareness and screening camps in association with Chennai’s Cancer Institute and have screened more than 1.5 lakh people for cancer across the state, having worked towards cancer control and prevention for more than 10 years. They believe preventing cancer is way better than treating it as once the cancer patient crosses the first stage, it not only becomes difficult to treat but also very expensive.
Their awareness programmes include treating tobacco addiction and counselling, screening for various types of cancers such as oral, breast, cervical, and many more.
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