14 February, 2024

The gift of life

SVICCAR’s oncological facility offers holistic and compassionate services at all levels of health care

Patients undergo life-saving treatment at SVICCAR, battling oral cancer
Patients undergo life-saving treatment at SVICCAR, battling oral cancer
Patients undergo life-saving treatment at SVICCAR, battling oral cancer
Patients undergo life-saving treatment at SVICCAR, battling oral cancer

Across the world, oral cancer is the sixth most common type of cancer. In India, it is the fifth most commonly occurring cancers, and the country contributes to almost a third of the global burden of oral cancers. Tobacco and alcohol consumption, chewing betel-nut, low oral hygiene, etc., constitute the highest risk factors for the prevalence of oral cancers. Unfortunately, most cases are reported in the later stages.

Issues pertaining to high incidence of these cancers and their late-stage detection are often exacerbated by the lack of infrastructure and skilled caregivers to treat the disease. Coupled with the often-heavy financial burden of care and a lack of awareness amongst the afflicted, the situation is dire.

In 2017, the Tata Trusts decided to expand their vision of transforming cancer care in India. The primary focus of the distributed model of cancer care was to provide affordable high-quality healthcare to millions of sufferers, in the vicinity of their homes. The emphasis is on enhanced access to care; uniform high-quality care; affordable care; awareness; early detection through screening, and palliative care as the case may be. To this end, the Trusts opened several apex centres, comprehensive treatment hospitals and diagnostic, radiation and chemotherapy centres across the country. The Trusts also entered into collaborations and supportive partnerships across regions to address the gaps in cancer-care infrastructure.

One such institution is the Sri Venkateswara Institute of Cancer Care and Advanced Research (SVICCAR). SVICCAR is one of the largest and most advanced cancer care hospitals in the Tirupati region of Andhra Pradesh. The hospital provides a wide range of oncological services from diagnostics and radiation therapy to medical, surgical, and palliative care. This, as 61-year-old T Savithramma discovered, was nothing short of a miracle.

Extensive care
SVICCAR ensures comfort and support for oral cancer patients
SVICCAR ensures comfort and support for oral cancer patients

Savithramma was a postmenopausal patient with a chronic habit of chewing betel nut. When the gradually progressive growth over her lower lip with mild pain did not subside over three months, she approached a local hospital. A biopsy showed that she had cancer of the lower lip. The hospital referred her to SVICCAR for further tests and treatment.

After a series of baseline investigative tests, Savithramma was admitted to SVICCAR in May 2023. The oncological team at SVICCAR explained the serious nature of her condition, the prognosis, proposed treatment plan, and potential risks in a language that Savithramma and her family could understand.

After obtaining her informed and written consent, Savithramma underwent transformative surgery that involved the excision of her entire lower lip and the subsequent reconstruction of this critical facial feature using tissue from her forearm (free radial artery forearm flap).

While head and neck surgeries are known to be complicated, often leading to severe disfigurement and lasting effects, the strategic application of plastic microsurgical reconstruction has emerged as a game-changer. This innovative approach not only facilitates the removal of cancerous growth but also paves the way for a near-normal cosmetic appearance post-surgery. Such meticulous interventions play a pivotal role in empowering patients like Savithramma to navigate the challenges of life after cancer, fostering not only physical recovery but also mental and emotional well-being.

Post-surgery, Savithramma’s condition remained stable during her hospital stay, and she was discharged with appropriate medication and advice to review. Her post-operative recovery has been consistent, with regular follow-up visits to monitor her condition.

SVICCAR’s thorough diagnosis, comprehensive surgical interventions and attentive postoperative care helped save Savithramma from further misery. Her positive outcome is testament to SVICCAR’s world-class treatment and support, and offers hope to many others like her, who are faced with the grim prospects of dealing with cancer, and are often left to their fate.