Cancer Aid & Research Foundation - Indian charitable organization
The Indian subcontinent in South Asia occupies 2.4% of the world land mass and is home to 16.5% of the world population. At present, it is roughly estimated that 1 million new cancer cases per annum will be recorded and at any given time there will be 3 million cancer patients in India. Nevertheless, cancer is not a frequent disease for the Indian population. Cancer statistics demonstrate that cancers frequently observed in India are lifestyle dependent, with offending factors such as tobacco usage, low socio-economic status, multiple pregnancies and poor sexual hygiene. These factors are closely related to the population living in rural surroundings and they are targets for cancer prevention. Low socio-economic status and low literacy rates ensure that most patients are diagnosed at an advanced stage of the disease. It is very difficult for these patients to achieve a cure and they are always treated by palliative care with much cost and morbidity. Therefore, it is reasonable to postulate that the strategy for cancer control in India should be focused on health education for the rural population and the creation of an infrastructure for cancer management. These systems with appropriate low-cost technology might be able to be duplicated as a model for developing countries with low capital inputs.
In India, health care facilities consist mainly of two components: those sponsored by the state or the government and the others belonging to the private or corporate sector.
In the overall political scene in India, policies for health promotion and education are unfortunately accorded a low priority; nonetheless, the Ministry of Health provides health care efforts in the state by supporting large teaching hospitals, dispensaries and small clinics in the smaller towns and rural areas. Primary health care workers and many of the dispensaries and small clinics are involved in preventive immunization and other basic health matters. Nearly 95% of the population in the rural area, 70% in smaller towns and 50% in the major cities avail themselves of these state-sponsored health care facilities with low cost or free of cost.
Cancer treatment facilities supported totally by the government are available in major cities such as Delhi, although totally inadequate for the needs. The Tata Memorial Centre, the largest comprehensive cancer centre in Bombay, is supported totally by the Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India. Many of these institutional facilities are available at low cost or no cost for the poor and in a private capacity for those who can afford it.
The Government of India also supports some of the regional cancer centres present across the country by a small amount of annual funding. It would be fair to state that despite financial restraints, the state and the government are aware of the increasing cancer problem and are trying their best to allocate a reasonable part of the budget for health to cancer control efforts.
The increasingly expensive technology for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and the possibility of profits in professionally run hospitals have led a large number of private general hospitals and specialized cancer hospitals to become involved in cancer care in the private sector. Most such facilities exist in large metropolitan cities and a few in larger towns. Needless to say, the demand far outstrips the supply and many more cancer facilities need to be created to care for the increasing number of cancer patients in coming decades.
A significant number of private cancer societies exist in various states which are mainly concerned with public education and creating cancer awareness. These societies depend on private and public philanthropy for their sustenance.