The dependence of cancer patients from Punjab on Bikaner based Acharya Tulsi Regional Cancer Institute (ATRCI) has reduced to 30 percent in last two years, thanks to the cancer centers becoming operational in the Malwa region, known as cancer belt of the state. Malwa region which consist of 11 districts and cities like Sangrur, Bathinda, Mansa, Firozpur, has the highest average of 136 cases per one lakh population than the national average of 100 per one lakh population in the country. The new centers catering to the region, Advance Cancer Institute (ACI) in Bathinda and Homi Bhabha Cancer Hospital (HBCH) in Sangrur, have catered to the region but these centers too are struggling with the shortage of facilities especially with the manpower. According to official data, the number of patients increased at ACI in Bathinda with each passing year with 200 in 2015, 1,177 in 2016, 2,096 in 2017 and 4,154 in 2018. In addition, there is follow up of 26,990 patients. Dr MK Mahajan, professor of radiotherapy and director of ACI, said, “The hospital is upgrading gradually. We began radiotherapy in 2016 along with some other feature but we are yet awaiting facility of medical oncology.” He said that there are nine doctors against the requirement of at least 42 in the institute. With limited 40 beds, the institute advice patients for family care at home.
There are new cancer centers to be set in the state including one each at Fazilaka and Hoshiarpur. However, the experts opine that the state must need to address the shortcomings in the lately started cancer centers, as still the patients continue to travel to far away Bikaner to avail cancer treatment in ATRCI. H S Kumar, head of department of radiation oncology at ATRCI said that though there had been reduction of 30 percent in the patient influx from Punjab, there are around 2,500 patients which the hospital receive from the state out of its total average of 11,000 patients from across the country. ATRCI is empaneled among those hospitals/centers which are covered under the scheme of mukhya mantri Punjab Cancer Raahat Kosh, providing subsidy benefit to the patients for the treatment and free of cost railway/bus fare and 50 percent concession to one attendant with the patient for transport.
Mahajan said that the maximum cases reported from the region are oesophagus cancer followed by breast and cervix cancer, caused more due to use of pesticide in crops and consumption of alcohol, drugs, tobacco and smoking through hookah by people of the region. – TOI