Assam reports more than 30,000 cases of cancer annually and the number is projected to increase significantly in the coming years. Nearly 70 percent of reported cases are in an advanced stage of the disease, leading to high mortality rates. The problem of high incidence and late detection is further exacerbated by a dearth of infrastructure and skilled manpower to treat the disease. With lack of standard facilities available closer to home, patients are compelled to travel long distances to seek treatment and care. This results in high out-of-pocket expenses and increases dropout rates during the course of treatment. Due to the shortage of allied health professionals, patients do not get the counselling and psychological support that is a necessary adjunct to curative treatment.
To address this grave situation, the Trusts formed the Assam Cancer Care Foundation in December 2017 in a joint partnership with the Government of Assam (GoA), to create a unique first-of-its-kind three-level cancer grid in the state. The Trusts and the GoA have conceptualised a distributed care model aimed at creating patient-centric cancer institutions to deliver standardised and affordable care closer to the patients’ homes. In contrast to the current situation where one apex hospital handles a cancer patient’s journey end-to-end, it is proposed that smaller centres in different regions which are interlinked with the apex centres, handle diagnosis and care delivery. This will result in shifting the load away from the apex hospitals, providing high quality cancer care closer to home, and reducing the financial burden of patients.
Infrastructure development is being supplemented with a plan to develop sufficient trained human resources, awareness and prevention programmes, and a unified technology platform to ensure high quality care is delivered in a standard and wholly patient-centric manner. Additionally, a state-of-the-art cancer research centre is being developed in Guwahati to focus on cancer types specific to the region and develop targeted therapies. The initiative will not only help in treating cancer and spreading awareness of the disease in Assam, but also cater to the needs of the entire North East.
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