Regional Cancer Centre inaugurated at Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital

The Centre is expected to greatly benefit patients and their caregivers in Tamil Nadu’s southern districts

A regional cancer centre was inaugurated at Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital by Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami on Thursday, February 4 being World Cancer Day.

This will greatly benefit cancer patients in southern districts and their caregivers, who have had to travel for more than 200 km to reach the Thiruvananthapuram-based Regional Cancer Centre for treatment at regular intervals.

The Regional Cancer Centre on the TVMCH campus, established at a cost of ₹40 crore, has state-of-the-art facilities to treat cancer patients from Tirunelveli, Tenkasi, Thoothukudi, Virudhunagar and Kanniyakumari districts free of cost, if the treatment is done under the Chief Minister’s Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme. For others, it will be done at a subsidized cost.

The need for a full-fledged modern facility for cancer treatment has increased manifold in the past two decades in the southern districts.

“In Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, Kanniyakumari and Tenkasi districts, 50,173 cancer patients are now under treatment as per government records and Tirunelveli alone has recorded 19,872 cancer cases, mainly due to tobacco, over the past nine years,” says E. Vidhubala, psycho-oncologist and research consultant, Nellai Cancer Care Centre, which has so far conducted 1,810 cancer screening camps to test 36,703 persons.

Pending demand

The process for getting this vital facility started way back in 2013 after a steady surge in the number of cancer patients in the southern districts, owing to a range of reasons including unchecked pollution, beedi rolling, etc. Though the TVMCH sent a proposal for establishing a Regional Cancer Centre here in 2013 itself to the State government, no decision was taken immediately on the request.

When the Tamil Nadu Government, with the Union government’s funding, announced in 2015 that a Regional Cancer Centre would be established at Tirunelveli and Thanjavur Medical Colleges each at a cost of ₹15 crore, it was expected that the already fragile patients’ arduous travel to Chennai or Thiruvananthapuram would come to an end. Unfortunately, the announcement was put in cold storage again.

After a lot of sustained persuasion and follow-up, the effort to realise the Regional Cancer Centre at TVMCH saw the light of day following the allocation of ₹40 crore for establishing modern treatment facilities including Linear Accelerator, Advanced Cobalt Therapy etc.

“In the cobalt therapy facility we had earlier, the radiation would affect the entire areas around the cancer-affected area. With this latest equipment, we can concentrate the radiation only at the affected areas and this will minimise side effects,” says Dr. Deivanayagam, Head, Department of Oncology, TVMCH.

While those who cannot afford it will receive all treatments free of cost, others will have to pay ₹40,000 for treatment that would cost ₹75,000 in private hospitals and the modern cancer treatment costing ₹1.5 lakh would cost only ₹1 lakh at Regional Cancer Centre, TVMCH.

Since the Regional Cancer Centre can make its treatment more effective by creating an exclusive ward for cancer patients, a proposal has been sent to the government for the construction of a two-storey building. “Each floor will have 100 beds to treat the patients more effectively, [as per the proposal],” Dr. Deivanayagam said.

Dr. Vidhubala advocates that the government set in motion at least now, the process of identifying alternative livelihood for beedi rollers who are much prone to the disease. “Since tobacco is the prime reason behind the alarming rise in the prevalence of cancer, more stringent laws should be put in place to curb tobacco use. And, those who are involved in this industry for their livelihood should be provided with alternative livelihoods,” Dr. Vidhubala prescribes.

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