The numbers are alarming! Every year, close to 14 lakh new cancer cases are diagnosed in India, and around 8.5 lakh patients succumb to the disease. This is a national concern that requires concerted efforts, a focused strategy and dedicated investment.
Apollo has been a pioneer in delivering cutting-edge, comprehensive cancer care across its 15 Apollo Cancer Centres (ACC) in India. But the game-changer in fighting the rise in cancer cases is to avert or detect it early through innovative techniques.
One advantage of early detection or diagnosis is that the chances of a positive clinical outcome are the highest. Today, advances in screening technology allow even the smallest of cancers to be detected, while genetic markers help predict the risk of developing cancer. An emphasis on regular preventive health checkup is key for early detection.
The Apollo Preventive Health Checks offer an array of blood tests, with USG intervention wherever required, to screen for organ-specific cancers like prostate, liver, cervical and lung at a very early stage. Recently, for breast cancer screening, liquid biopsy for tumour markers that complements a mammogram was introduced.
The other aspect of advances in cancer diagnostics is that it enhances cancer care by providing a roadmap for treatment protocol. A 3-tesla MRI is standard equipment at ACC, as is the 128 slice digital PET-CT scanner, which reduces radiation exposure by 50 per cent to 70 per cent. Digital pathology solutions combine the expertise of the clinician with AI to render high-quality diagnostic services with a quick turnaround time.
Advances in cancer treatment have seen synergies with modern diagnostics. ACC’s successful bone marrow transplant programme to treat liquid cancers and hemoglobinopathies is made possible with an in-house flow cytometry solution.
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Modern medical innovations include drugs that act at a molecular level to kill cancer cells. Usage of these drugs needs advance diagnostics such as the ‘New Generation Sequencing’ (NGS) equipment, which breaks down the entire genome to the level of individual genes for identification of mutation, if any, and aids in treatment.
Precision oncology is another key focus area, with precision diagnostics as an integral part. Over the next two years, 40 advanced centres will be rolled out, which will provide high-end diagnostics and treatment options under a single roof.
The future will see the concept of preventive oncology turning into a reality with innovative advance cancer vaccination protocols and genetic counselling for the ‘at risk’ population.
The fight against cancer is gathering momentum. As a pioneer and the nation’s foremost provider of cancer treatment services, Apollo has a responsibility to the people. ACC has submitted recommendations on prevention and screening of high-incidence cancers to the Union health ministry, which have been accepted.
A new chapter in cancer care has begun!
The writer is executive vice chairperson, Apollo Hospitals Group.