Cancer rages in Assam

- Betel nut, tobacco culprits

Guwahati, April 13 : Assam has the highest number of patients with cancer of the oesophagus, pharynx (or throat), larynx and gallbladder in the country with betel nut and tobacco chewing being the major contributors.
According to the latest data available with the population-based cancer registries, Kamrup (metro) has the highest number of patients suffering from cancer of the oesophagus, pharynx and gall bladder against per lakh population while Cachar tops the nationwide list for laryngeal cancer.
Jaganath Dev Sharma, the principal investigator of the population-based cancer registry in Kamrup (metro), told The Telegraph that Assam also had the highest number of women suffering from oesophagus cancer in the country. Kamrup (metro) tops this list in the country followed by Dibrugarh and Cachar. Kamrup (metro) has 14.8 females (that is 14 to 15 persons) in per lakh population suffering from cancer of the oesophagus.
“In case of male patients, Kamrup (metro) is second on the list with 27.2 persons against per lakh population suffering from oesophagus cancer in the country,” Sharma said. Aizawl in Mizoram tops this list.
Sharma said the number of cancer cases detected between 2006 and 2008, which was complied and published by the population-based cancer registries in November last year, also found that 15.7 persons per lakh of the population suffer from pharynx or throat cancer in Kamrup (metro). Dibrugarh and Cachar are the third and fourth highest districts respectively in the country in this case while Aizawl ranks second.
Kamrup (metro) was also found to have the highest cases of gall bladder cancer in the country with 10.8 persons in every lakh of the population suffering from the scourge.
Sharma said cancer cases are not only rising in the Brahmaputra Valley but are also alarming in Barak Valley with Cachar having the highest cases of laryngeal cancer in the country — 13.9 persons in per lakh population. Delhi recorded the second highest cases of laryngeal cancer.
Sharma said the population-based cancer registries monitor the frequency of new cancer cases in well defined populations.
There are 23 registries in the country, three of which function in Assam.
“While the next exercise of compilation of data of cancer cases is expected to be carried out between 2013 and 2014, there is a strong apprehension that the frequency of cancer cases in Assam would double within the next couple of years,” he said.
Sharma, who is the chief consultant pathologist of B. Borooah Cancer Institute, said the causes for high cancer cases in Assam were under investigation but chewing betel nut and consumption of tobacco was a major contributing factor, particularly for oesophagus cancer.
BBCI director Amal Chandra Kataki expressed an urgent need to spread awareness about the causes and early detection of cancer for effective treatment.
“Due to lack of awareness about the disease, many patients come to us late when the chances of survival are very less. The BBCI is carrying out awareness programmes but it cannot cover the entire populace as it is the lone institute for cancer care in Assam,” he said.
Kataki said his institute was conducting research with the help of the Indian Council of Medical Research to find out the cause for such an alarming rise in cancer in Assam. He said the state government must enact a law to ban sale and consumption of tobacco, gutka and cigarettes.
A health department official said the government was trying to tackle the situation, including offering free treatment for cancer.