The Regional Cancer Center in Thiruvananthapuram has come a long way from a lofty vision to the foremost destination for cancer patients from across Kerala. Has the center stayed firm in its intended trajectory even as it makes giant strides in treatment and care? I have my doubts.
The RCC was meant to ensure urgent and effective treatment to cancer patients yet the center is choked with patients seeking treatment. There are many instances where long waits for surgical oncology have led to a deterioration in patients’ condition or even death.
I envisaged an institution exclusively for cancer care at a time when patients could not expect effective treatment even from the government medical colleges. The center aimed to lay equal stress on medical oncology, radiation oncology and surgical oncology and provide each patient the treatment he requires without delay.
The latest medical procedures favor organ preservation methods, in which treatment is focused on the cancer-affected areas with the help of sophisticated technology, rather than surgically removing the affected organ. This method is important in breast cancer treatment.
Similarly, the treatment of gastrointestinal tract or ovarian cancers have gone under tremendous changes with the introduction of laparoscopic and robotic surgery.
Laparoscopic procedure does away with the risk of post-surgical infection as the surgery leaves behind only a keyhole-size wound. This procedure allows the patient to leave the hospital sooner.
Cancer patients from even the northern tip of Kerala depend on the public sector for treatment even after 35 years of the formation of the Regional Cancer Center. Each of them deserves suitable treatment without delay. They come to the center with high hopes.
The government still has a lot to do regarding the RCC. I hope the government would think about it as it has already demonstrated a sense of direction in the health sector. People’s hopes have been raised by the assurance given by the Chief Minister that the government would go for fundamental change in policy in all sectors including healthcare. The Health Minister has also promised to bring about a new health policy as soon as he took over.
As someone working to implement ideas about cancer care, I hope that the new government would bring in the changes to ensure total care to ordinary cancer patients without any delays and hassles at a time when the number of cancer-afflicted are on the rise in Kerala.
(The writer is a prominent oncologist and the founder director of the Regional Cancer Center. He steered the center from 1981 to 2003. He has been honored with a Padma Shri.)