NE becoming epicenter for cancer and NCDs

2nd North East Summit kicks off in Gangtok

Moa Jamir
Gangtok | September 8

The North East Region (NER) is becoming an epicenter for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) especially Cancer requiring urgent policy intervention from every stakeholder.


This was the conclusion of a session titled ‘Chronic Conditions and Non-Communicable Diseases – the rising epidemic in India and the North East’ at the ongoing 2nd North East Health Care Summit at Chintan Bhavan, Gangtok.


The Summit organized by Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) in partnership with the Ministry of Development of the North East Region (DoNER), the Government of Sikkim and the Sir Thutob Namgyal Memorial Hospital (STNMH) kick started today.


Health care professionals, government health departments, academia, media and other stakeholders are participating in the Summit.


Dr. Eric Zomawia, Deputy Director, NCD, Mizoram Government said that the North East figures among the top in prevalence of various type of cancers.


He was referring to the Population Based Cancer Registries (PBCRs) figure for the Age Adjusted Rates (AARs) of Indian PBCRs (2012-2014).


As the cases don’t usually change, the figures may be same or might have increased, he added.


For instance, almost all the NE states figure in the high incidence of cancer like stomach, lungs, oesophagus, Nasopharynx, and larynx cancer.


The cross international comparison based on PCBRs registration shows that Nagaland has the second highest incidence of Nasopharynx among females while third among males. The State also tops the Larynx cancer.


Mizoram also figures on top of both the lists.


The prevalence of tongue cancer was highest in Meghalaya East Khasi hills district while Meghalaya itself was on top.


Prevalence of stomach cancer was highest in Mizoram.


One in eight persons has a chance of developing cancer as of today, Dr. Eric noted, adding the it was as high as one in four in Aizawl district.


Besides food habits, he attributed high prevalence to consumption of tobacco.


NCD is not contagious, but deadly, Dr. BB Kukreja, another panelist, said adding that deaths due to NCD have increased even among women from 38-60 percent in last two decades.


20 percent of population has one chronic disease.


Senior public health specialist of PHFI, Dr. Raj Mohan Panda, called for establishing Tobacco cessation clinics in NER.


Dependence barrier needs to be addressed, apart from awareness and taxation campaigns, he noted.


Knowledge is not enough. Recognizing tobacco abuse as a disease and treating it accordingly will help in cessation of habits, he added, citing previous research.


Others spoke about the cost of such treatment and how government can find ways for treatment programs.


For instance, the Secretary Health & Family Welfare Meghalaya said that cancer treatment is expensive and government needs to intervene. He called for establishing AMRIT pharmacy, which Meghalaya already started in Shillong and NEGRHiMs.


Due to this, medicine costing Rs. 2000 for cancer are now available at Rs. 800.


Assam too has such avenues while Sikkim has various health plans for patients.


Joinimg in a Q&A session, Director Regional Resource Centre, MoHFW for North-East states, Dr. Bamin Tada said that cancer treatment centre/hospital needs to be implemented in each state.


However, he lamented that often the NE states prepare hap hazard Programme Implementation Plan, which often does not give good justification. Often the technicalities are not correct and found missing he noted.


Because of this, programmes are often not implemented.


Dr. K Bhandari, Director cum Secretary, HC, HS&FW Department, Sikkim, called for combating NCD by adopting healthy lifestyle and also making Sports or PT compulsory in school. He also called for stricter tobacco laws.