I happened to meet Dr Ajai Kumar of Bangalore-based HealthCare Global (HCG) in Mumbai for a quick discussion on what his company has been upto. The radiation and medical oncologist is busy expanding a cancer hospitals network which currently has 16 centres specialising in cancer care in the country. He was in Mumbai to raise funds to set up more such hospitals here and in other countries including neighbouring Bangladesh.
While Dr Kumar did share his business plans, he was keen that I take home an important message. That cancer can be “managed like any other disease.” It is possible to live a near-normal life with cancer for several years provided the right care is given, he says. Dr Kumar doesn’t understand why even journalists here regard the disease as a death sentence.
Well, I can think of a few reasons prima facie. One, the disease is often diagnosed too late to be treated. Two, allopathic cancer care is so expensive and its side-effects seen so forbidding that patients may opt for alternative therapy or no therapy. Three, cancer drugs don’t always work.
With improved diagnosis, access programmes, and advances in targeted therapy as well as biomarkers there is no reason why these hurdles cannot be overcome. In the meantime though I can’t help but regard cancer with far more horror than say, diabetes.