Millions of cancer patients die every year, making cancer one of the leading causes of death in India

Cancer patient at Karunashraya's medical care facility
Cancer patient at Karunashraya

Cancer is a life threatening disease. Millions of cancer patients die an untimely death in India every year. Incurable in most cases, it needs to be understood better to help the affected live their remaining days peacefully. Here’s how a non-profit called Karunashraya is making a difference in the lives of the cancer affected.

Why should you care?

9.6 million people die from cancer every year. India ranks third in cancer cases after China and the US. This makes cancer the second most common cause of death in India.

Every year India reports more than a million new cancer cases. One woman dies of cervical cancer every eight minutes in India. Unfortunately, half a million deaths happen due to the ignorance of the disease.

Prominent among women

Cancer among women in the country is estimated to be 0.7 million reported cases. Breast cancer is the most common cancer which accounts for about a quarter of all cancers in Indian women. More women in India die from cervical cancer than in any other country.

Need for palliative care

Cancer is a life-threatening disease which is difficult to treat and cure. The patient suffers greatly as cancer progresses. The suffering is also because of the side effects of the cancer treatment, which is both physical and emotional.

In India and in other low income countries, the long treatment also adds to the financial burden of the poor families. Nearly 80% of cancer patients in India access medical help when there is no hope for a cure. Large number of these people live in underserved areas including remote villages and slums. They survive in unhygienic surroundings, prone to many other diseases. This leads to a poor quality of life and hence people affected by these need support.

Palliative care helps the affected to lead their last days in peace. It is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families. It helps in pain management for  terminally ill patients through medication and counselling.

Karunashraya is making a difference

Karunashraya is first of its kind home for poor cancer patients in India.  It helps patients to live without pain and with peace till their journey ends.

The treatment given to cancer patients includes pain and symptom control, psychological and social support, rehabilitation therapies, counseling and practical and financial advice.

It is a joint project of the Indian Cancer Society (Karnataka Chapter) and the Rotary Club of Bangalore Indiranagar. It provides free professional palliative care for advanced stage cancer patients who are beyond cure. They offer in-patient care since 1999 and home care since 1995, tending to over 17,500 patients. It provides supportive environment to patients and their families to make things easier for them .

Karunashraya, means ‘an abode of compassion’. Their shelter home in Bangalore is a huge establishment, covered in lush greenery with birds chirping around. It is designed to make sure that patients spend their time peacefully.

Adding quality to the lives of cancer patients

Ayesha was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Despite being a positive person, the news of having an incurable disease shattered her. She started to remain quiet and distant. When she came to Karunashraya, she was disturbed to see the scars of other patients. Her initial treatment involved chemotherapy and she used to leave the hospital as soon as she could without interacting with other patients.

In the beginning she was reluctant to participate in any of the activities. She would make excuses and skip her sessions to avoid talking to anyone. One day her counselor gave her a coloring book and some colours. Ayesha excitedly worked all night and next day came back with a beautiful sketch. Everyone appreciated her work and that acted as ice breaker for Ayesha. She started attending activities with other patients and became comfortable with their wounds. This also helped her accept her own reality. She decided to live her remaining days as a cheerful person as she was. To uplift other patient’s spirits, she also started bringing them out of their wards and started spending time with them.

Ayesha’s wish was to die a peaceful death and it was granted. One morning she passed away in her sleep very peacefully. Her family was also satisfied that she managed to leave the world without much pain.

How can you support cancer patients?

People show their support in the most wonderful ways. One of the supporters of Karunashraya, Roshni Talera shaved her head to show her support to patients who lose their hair because of chemotherapy. This bright and energetic teenager from Bangalore went bald to gather support for cancer patients and to draw attention to Karunashraya’s efforts in palliative care.

You too can make a difference in your own way. More than 30 supporters make monthly donations on GiveIndia to support Karunashraya. To help Karunashraya continue its efforts, you too can donate for the treatment of poor cancer patients. Your donation will help them get access to the medical treatment they deserve in their last days.

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