With Assam being one of the states with high incidence of cancer cases and high mortality of cancer patients due to lack of treatment or late diagnosis, absence of standard treatment protocol has further compounded the problem.
Physician-scientist Bikul Das, who has been closely related with research in cancer stem cell, said his interaction with cancer patients of the state for nearly a decade has revealed the lack of a standard treatment protocol, which has increased the problem further.
Das has been tracking the treatment and palliative care of cancer patients of Sualkuchi area in Kamrup (rural) district of Assam for past nine years, with 60 patients registered with KaviKrishna Telemedicine Care (KTC), which has been operating since 2010 as a unit of Sualkuchi-registered KaviKrishna, a non-profit organization dedicated to cancer care and research.
Das is a senior research scientist and director of the KaviKrishna lab, located in IIT-Guwahati campus, and also the director of the Thoreau Lab for Global Health, University of Lowell, MA, in collaboration with which Dr Das and his team has been pursuing the cancer stem cell research.
Earlier, Das received medical training in Gauhati Medical College, and then post-doctoral fellowship at the Medical Oncology department of Stanford University School of Medicine of California.
Sharing details of the feedback received from the patients registered with KTC, Das said, “Through coordination and communication with these patients and their doctors for last nine years, we come to know that there is no standard cancer treatment protocol. So, the patients receive different treatment guidance in different hospitals. Also, there is no feedback system from patients regarding the treatment they receive”.
He suggested that if all the hospitals from hold consultations between themselves and standardize and update the treatment protocol, the patient may suffer less. “Also, there is communication gap between the physician and the patients. This lack of communication keeps patients and their family members in a state of confusion, and often, affects the course of treatment,” he said.
Das also noted with concern the lack of proper palliative care for cancer patients, with KTC chipping in its bit for the care of the patients at their homes at times. Now, KTC has been training physician assistant for cancer care.
Two of the trainees of KTC, Lekhika Pathak and Tutumoni Baishya, have recently published their innovative cancer care idea in Cancer Research, an international journal. Das maintained that through KTC, innovative idea may emerge about how to manage cancer patients in rural Assam.
As per the Indian Council for Medical Research, every year 31,825 new cases of cancer are detected in the state. Further, 70 percent of the total cancer patients face mortality due to lack of treatment or late diagnosis.