Spend a day with Cancer Patients Aid Association’s (CPAA) team and you’re sure to be moved by their heart-warming stories. Stories that show how personal touch is as important a factor as correct medical treatment when it comes to curing life-threatening diseases. CPAA grasped this in as early as the 60s. The fact that Cancer could not be looked at just clinically; or cured by simple surgical resection of the malignancy. It’s a disease that has far reaching implications that go beyond surgical and medical procedures. It spells fear, trauma, expensive treatment, side effects, social rejection, toppled economics and family life… and so much more.

With this thought in mind, the organisation mission is “the total management of Cancer.” In this regards, they provide all kinds of support except for the actual treatment itself. This is achieved through their counseling cells at Cancer hospitals in Mumbai, New Delhi and Pune. Manned by their team of trained volunteers and experienced, professional counselors, they act as catalysts in making treatment effective. From finding boarding facilities for patients from out of the city, to advice on hygiene and diet, to stepping in with financial aid when necessary, to providing nutritional supplements, help with linen, clothing and food grains, help with filling in forms or distribution of awareness literature, palliative care , rehabilitation, second-opinions, CPAA is a mentor, guide cum friend all-in-one!

It is this distinctive approach that has won the organization respect and attention over the years for impacting people’s lives in a positive and healthy way. The organisation aims to be an all-encompassing cancer help-agency that works for awareness and advocacy, in addition to patient care, aid and assistance. On the advocacy front, their biggest victory has been their successful fight against Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG’s attempt to further patent the anti-leukemia drug Glivec, which is effective in treating chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). The cost of Glivec is Rs. 1.2 lakh per month (approx). Thanks to the verdict in CPAA’s favour, Indian manufacturers can continue making inexpensive generics of the drug at the affordable price of Rs. 8,000 – 10,000 per month!

The organisation also helps with Prostheses. Their work on the same helps provide the same for Rs. 1,200 (depending on size) versus Rs.7,500 – Rs. 8,500 that the imported models cost.

Bone cancer, breast cancer and laryngeal cancer patients often need prostheses (artificial body parts) post surgery. Prostheses act as replacement parts for those that were removed during surgery. Prostheses manufactured abroad are difficult to obtain and can be prohibitively expensive. In the past, CPAA has communicated with the manufacturer of such prostheses to negotiate reduced rates and then helped the patient raise the necessary resources to buy them. Self-image is an important part of the recovery process following a mastectomy for breast cancer, and so, CPAA decided to develop low-cost, high-quality breast prosthesis in-house. Manju Gupta, their Executive Director of the Rehabilitation Center, who was accompanying a relative undergoing medical treatment in New York’s Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital, investigated the various kinds of foam, silicone liquid and solid breast prostheses available, then returned and developed a prosthesis based largely on Indian material. The prosthesis is fully washable (important in view of the hot and humid climate), gives an extremely good cosmetic appearance.

Other areas of support include education to children from families, where the monthly income gets utilised for treatment needs of the patients. And vocational training for Cancer survivors, who thanks to the disease had to give up their previous jobs and have not yet been successful in finding gainful employment.

Thanks to its continued and sustained efforts, till date, CPAA has been able to spread cancer awareness to over 4 lakh individuals; screen 2,55,684 healthy individuals for cancer out of which 507 cases were detected and have been able to provide medical, financial and emotional assistance to over 10 lakh cancer patients.

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