On the eve of World Cancer Day, the fight against cancer is gaining public attention. The U.S. Government has announced a $1 billion fund to accelerate research in cancer cure. In India, a number of celebrities including Yuvraj Singh, Manisha Koirala, Lisa Ray have spoken publicly about their struggles with cancer. This year’s Padma awardee list included V Shanta, grand-niece of CV Raman, who has spent 40 years making cancer care affordable to the poor.
For the poor, the fight against cancer is a long struggle, from finding the right doctor to arranging finances for treatment. Patients from rural and tribal areas are forced to uproot their lives to come to cities for treatment as the local hospitals lack expertise. NGOs working in the field of cancer step in to facilitate their journey. Read about how they impact the lives of needy cancer patients:
- Funds for treatment: While the greatest need is funds for treatment, most NGOs cannot provide the entire cost of treatment. A common intervention is to support costs of medicines, scans, radiation sessions and so on. Indian Cancer Society found that patients, alarmed by the high, recurring costs often stop their treatment after the first scan itself. They arrange for funds that cover the costs of the initial screenings and diagnosis, in addition to part-sponsoring funds during treatment.
- Palliative Care: Palliative care refers to end-of-life services given to patients with a terminal illness. While the disease itself cannot be cured, enduring the pain is traumatic for patients and families alike. Palliative care gives patients relief, peace and dignity during their struggle. Care India Medical Society runs customised programmes ‘Vishranti’ and ‘Satseva’ for this purpose. Both programmes are free-of-cost for patients. CanSupport specialises in providing home care for patients as some patients prefer the home rather than hospital environment.
- Tertiary services: These are unforeseen costs and requirements that patients are not aware of, including transportation to and from the radiation centre, prosthetics, nutrition during medication and more. Cancer Patients Aid Association and V Care fundraise to meet the nutrition requirement of patients. A paediatric oncologist from Mumbai’s Tata Memorial Hospital noted a shocking fact, that ‘4 out of 10 children lose their fight (against cancer) because of malnutrition.’ Many of them cannot afford the cost of food that is likely to keep them alive while being treated. Cuddles Foundation provides nutrition to malnourished children who often don’t survive chemotherapy due to weak health.
- Counselling: Many cancer patients in advanced stages come from villages to seek treatment in Mumbai, Delhi and other cities. As Mitu Puri and Geetanjali Bhalla of Pall Can Care say, “..just getting into a ward could take them months”. They could be uneducated, poor, and unaware of how to navigate government hospitals. Initially, the duo offered services to children but have now extended their work when they found elderly people who travelled to Delhi alone as their families did not want to take care of them.