Yuvraj's cancer and the social psyche
Yuvraj Singh's treatment for cancer has dominated headlines over the last week or so. In a cricket crazy nation, it is not surprising the kind of attention that this draws the media towards. However, the lad indeed needs privacy and one also needs to also look at the bigger picture of cancer treatment in this country. Are we aware of the expenses related to cancer treatment in the country? Would we have zoomed in so much emphasis irrespective of the Yuvraj case? Are we sensitive to cancer patients beyond our kith and kin?
In an age where technology is rapidly making giant strides in medication, cancer treatment has improved immensely over the years. Today, it is not as dangerous a disease as a HIV and it can be cured as long as it is detected early. While there has been progress, there are significant challenges for people associated with it. Here are some facts from the Indian Statistical Institute in a July 2011 paper: The average cost of a cancer patient (inclusive of radiotherapy, chemotherapy and others) in AIIMS (India) is Rs 1,602 per week, the costs of a 7 week radiotherapy course is Rs 8184 and the average economic burden for a person being treated at AIIMS comes to around Rs 36,812. In private hospitals, on an average according to oncologists, the entire treatment across the various stages costs a whopping 10 to 12 lakhs. Now tell me, how do you expect an average middle class man to afford such services at such costs? For a farmer who is attending to a government hospital it is indeed expensive considering that the lower middle class are grappling with day to day issues such as price rise. On the other hand, in the private hospitals, where the rich flock to, the fees are equally high when compared to what the average upper middle class person earns. In both cases of the government and private hospitals, the cost is tremendous burden on anyone grappling with the disease. This becomes even worse in this case due to the nature of the disease.
Cancer by nature is a very strange disease. Despite various improvements in technology, it is very hard to find the source and very hard to predict how it would spread around the body. As such, the probability of it spreading it and causing other complications is significant. For example, the drugs for chemotherapy might not be as expensive as the antibiotics that follow it. As such, the nature of the disease accelerates the cost. The government initiated the National Cancer Control Programme first in 1975-76. This programme at present oversees 25 regional cancer research centres in India which focus on Cancer Detection and Diagnosis, Provision of Therapy, after care and rehabilitation, Education and Training. In addition, they also focus on developing oncology wings in all the medical colleges across the country to aid in this process. There is also a district programme which has been initiated since 1991 which gets a grant of Rs 90 lakh over a period of 5 years. Besides these, there are various NGO's which coordinate with the government in accentuating the process for aiding cancer patients. Even though these programme's are sought after by the needy, their implementation on a mass scale is still not as effective as it could be. Marginal expenditure on health aids this concern even more Besides the finances and the nature of the disease, the patients often are affected psychologically by society.
Even today, in large sections of literate society, cancer is perceived be the end all of things. That is NOT the case. Society needs to understand that this is like any other disease and can be cured if given the proper treatment. People shouldn't be ostracized if they are subject to cancer, in fact they should be embraced even more. The psychological aspect of a cancer patient is more crucial than the medical aspect. There is a huge role that society at large could play in embracing the people who are affected to assuage their apprehensions and show them that cancer is something that is curable. Even though closely knit families in Indian societies play a huge role in helping their own kin in such circumstances, we sometimes do not show the same magnanimity when it happens to others. Our inner apprehensions (sometimes inaccurate knowledge of the nature of the disease) make us castigate them from our mainstream activities. It is imperative for society to understand that they have a role that is equivalent to that of the doctors ,in the recovery of the people who are affected by cancer. In fact, I would say the warmth and embrace from people has a greater role in uplifting the individual than the doctors.
This is a highly complex phenomenon that needs to be addressed with care. The success of coping with cancer depends on how we would be creating avenues for greater government subsidies for the affected poor and our ability to understand the complexity of the disease. More than these, the least we could do is alter our psyche to reach out to cancer patients to make a difference in their lives by embracing them without any qualms or apprehensions.
This is not just about Yuvraj alone, it is about him and the 2 million cancer patients that are there in the country at any given point of time.
(The author can be reached on his Facebook page)
More about Sriram Balasubramanian
Sriram Balasubramanian is a Journalist, voracious reader, avid Blogger, social enthusiast and a believer in excellence not mediocrity. With an inherent passion towards journalism and writing, he believes in playing the "Straight Drive" all the time. Besides this, he has a MS in Engineering Management and has played Chess for Singapore.
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