Dr.A Sukumaran Nair

Founder Trustee - ICCM

Formerly Vice- Chancellor, Mahatma Gandhi University

The Indian Cancer Care Mission (ICCM) is a private charitable trust registered in Kerala under the relevant state rules, formed by a group of social activists who are convinced about the need for a voluntary private body for dealing with this hardships faced by cancer patients and others connected with them.

Cancer continues to be one of the most dreaded diseases affecting mankind, despite the path breaking achievements of modern medical science in the treatment and control of this disease in recent times. The general public, by and large, are unaware of these developments and look upon this disease as an incurable malady which defies satisfactory treatment. This attitude is present even among cancer patients in advanced societies that have developed effective medical supports for dealing with cancer. Besides effective curative strategies, their societies have made .different forms of socio-familial counseling and support services for cancer patients. The Indian scenario is yet to introduce treatment and support services widely practiced by the advanced societies.

The ICCM is an attempt to correct this lapse by a group of social workers who are convinced that the introductions of ameliorative cum support measures would help to erase the hardship faced by cancer patients in India, once a specialized private body with the basic know-how and professionalism is created to deal with the diverse issues connected with the disease presently in the country. Free service is to be made available to cancer patients by the ICCM.

The fact that the cancer is included in the list of curable diseases by modern medical science is ignored by most of the cancer patients. The very name conjures visions of an incurable and fatal disease.

The support organizations functioning in the area has major obligations to deeducate and reeducate the cancer patients, by devising strategies - to counter the factors that strengthen the wrong notions about cancer - like:

  • it is the second greatest killer among diseases, but can be cured once it is detected early enough.
  • it is not a disease which affects older people only, it can affect people of all ages.
  • it can afflict almost every organ of the human body.
  • it fails to issue clear warnings about its existences, but is often detected when its control becomes difficult or impossible/ irresponsive.
  • medical science is yet to develop cent percent fool-proof tests to detect its presence.
  • the cause of the disease is yet to be properly established.
  • the danger signals associated with the disease are too common place and often get sidelined/ ignored.
  • some growths initially identified as ‘benign’ suddenly turn to be ‘malignant’.
  • the danger signals are often identified late for medical correction.
  • the symptoms are often listed as symptoms of less dangerous diseases, and hence receive wrong types of treatment.

Modern medical science holds the view that the social effect of the disease on individuals (when one is labeled a cancer patient) is more devastating than the effects of the disease itself. The treatment therefore should include an effective conscientization program for the general population. They have to be fed with correct scientific notions about the cause, varieties and treatment strategies available for cancer in modern medical science.

It is a well-known fact that even developed countries with established health-care systems are unable to achieve the desired goals because the potential beneficiaries operate or utilize the strategies using wrong assumptions. They lack the basic know-how as to where to begin and how to go about the vast numbers of the cancer patients have problems in raising money for the costly cancer treatment. The situation is much more worse in countries like India where people approach the new strategies using half-baked knowledge or wrong assumptions about the disease and its after effects.

What the Indian context demands is a ‘brave new approach’, a comprehensive set of mutually reinforcing approaches both to reeducate community and give them(along with the patients) appropriate counseling about the need to develop proper notions about the disease itself. A three-pronged approach given below is what is needed:

a) an Educational–Conscientization function(the EC-function) meant for the general community

b) an Identification-Diagnostic function (the ID-function) meant for suspected sufferers

c)an Ameliorative-Treatment function (the AT-function) meant for those identified as having the disease.

The ICCM intends to develop a cadre of specialist workers (with the help and support of medical specialists and other support–service workers) who can effectively attack the problems posed in the three areas indicated above. The ICCM expects to use its expertise in a wide array of service sectors and set in motion a national movement- ‘Know Cancer, Fight Cancer Movement’ (KC-FC Movement) by generating an informed group of workers who can deal effectively with the multiform issues connected with this exercise.

The ICCM is expected to perform these to its core:

1. Develop and operate a system for educating the community about cancer, its incidences causes and its fall-outs using appropriate strategies like conscientization course sessions, published materials, multimedia presentations, on how its incidence can be reduced, with special reference to:

(a) Misconceptions about this disease, its detection and treatment, and this preventive measures like adoption of better life habits, anti-tobacco campaigns non-exposure to harmful radiations, etc.

(b) Steps to be adopted for early detection of cancer, popularization of anti-cancer strategies, care of cancer patients, generation of data banks relating to incidence and control of cancer in the country, making available medicines and medical technology for cancer treatment, etc.

2) Popularity methods for easy diagnosis of cancer using:

a) Proper education of diagnostic strategies with special reference to their implications, nature and cost.

b) Developing scientific notions about diagnosis of cancer and helping patients/ suspected patients to adopt right diagnostic methods and help sufferers in early diagnosis, including financial help for diagnosis.

3) Help identified cancer patients to adopt proper treatment including:

a) The section of the right institutions and specialists for treatment.

b) Help in finding funds for the costly treatment in the case of low-income families.

c) Identify patients who need specialized treatment in foreign countries and contact them with proper treatment centers abroad.

4) Develop the satisfactory service systems for all components of cancer treatment and their rehabilitations using:

a) Holistic treatment using alternative medical systems.

b) Developing a new cadre of health-care workers with competence for dealing with the treatment and welfare of different categories of cancer patients.

c) Developing organizational systems for partnering with world organizations specializing in the diagnosis, treatment and welfare of cancer patients.

d) Generating special interest in all aspects of cancer treatment and stimulate social interest in reducing the incidence of cancer.

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