Mon, Aug 19, 2013 - Page 5 News List

FEATURE: Indian cancer patients sleep rough

‘RATS, MOSQUITOES AND DIRT’:The Tata Memorial Hospital offers subsidized care, but many outpatients cannot afford hotels. Cancer is on the rise across India


The need for such services is only set to grow in the huge nation, where more than half a million people died of cancer in 2010, according to a study published in The Lancet medical journal last year.

Pankaj Chaturvedi, a professor and a head and neck surgeon at the Tata hospital, said cancer is a rising blight as Indian society becomes more affluent.

While breast and cervical cancers are the most common among women, lung and mouth cancers are the biggest killers for men owing to the widespread use of tobacco — especially chewing tobacco — across the country.

“Increasing tobacco and alcohol use, unsafe food and lack of exercise — these are the four factors that lead to an increase in non-communicable diseases, of which cancer is a top one,” he said.

On top of these factors, improvements in medical science mean people are living longer, and “the longer you live, the higher the chance of cancer.”

However, for some, it still strikes early.

Ponmuth Rajaram Haridas, 22, has been camping outside the Tata center for four months with his parents while he is treated for blood cancer, having sold off all the sheep on their farm and taken out a loan.

On doctors’ orders that he eats home-cooked food, his small and spritely mother makes him simple meals of rice, dahl and vegetables on a tiny stove in a corner of their makeshift tent.

Speaking through a surgical mask to keep out the germs, he said he hopes to return to their village in another couple of months after he finishes two more sessions of chemotherapy.

“I can’t get to sleep here. The atmosphere is much better at home,” he said.

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