Why cancer care in India needs more attention
India is faced with a sizable cancer incidence burden, which continues to grow exponentially. The 2020 WHO ranking on the cancer burden in terms of new yearly cases being reported had ranked India at the third position after China and the US, respectively. (1) The reported cancer incidence in India in 2022 is estimated to be 19 to 20 lakhs, whereas real incidence is likely to be 1.5 to 3 times higher than the reported cases, according to a study by FICCI and EY. (2)
When it comes to fatality, doctors have attributed India’s high-cancer mortality to late diagnosis and among a large set of patients. (3) This delayed diagnosis are due to a multitude of factors such as a lack of awareness, lagging in the medical infrastructure of certain regions, poor socio-economic means, and sometimes even misdiagnosis.
Pfizer’s contribution- Leading the wave of redefining healthcare
In line with the company’s vision to redefine the global healthcare ecosystem, Pfizer Limited has successfully launched its 13th Aastha helpdesk as to further India’s vision of accessible healthcare for all. The most recent helpdesk has been set up at one of the biggest government hospitals, the Sawai Man Singh Hospital (SMS), Jaipur, and will cater to over 14,000-15,000 patients annually!
Driving change through Project Aasth
The Aastha Cancer-Care helpdesk marks a step towards creating an ecosystem where patients get the care, support, and empathy they need. It will aid in simplifying the treatment journey for cancer patients and their families. Project Aastha is an ongoing partnership between Pfizer and Doctors for You (a pan-India humanitarian organisation) to set up Cancer-Care support services across the country. In the future, Pfizer aims to establish close to 20 such helpdesks across various states in India.
The Aastha helpdesk, set up in the hospital premises, will provide end-to-end support to patients and their families. Starting with registration, travel booking information local accommodation guidance and linkages, access to available funding for treatment, dietary advice between and after chemotherapy, emotional and mental health counseling helpline or in person, inter and intrahospital shifting and wheelchair management, referral of cancer patients to other field specialists for non-cancer-related medical issues, and follow-ups with registered patients.
Sharad Goswami, Senior Director, Corporate Affairs, Pfizer Limited, commented on the program “At Pfizer, we recognize that breakthroughs must go beyond medicines; Project Aastha cancer-care helpdesk is one such endeavor to further our purpose of bringing ‘breakthroughs that change patients’ lives’.
These helpdesks support patients and their caregivers through the treatment journey assisting with funding and accommodation requirements, counseling well as hospital navigation. We have witnessed the difference that this project has made in the lives of the over 7 lakh patients it has impacted in other cities tote, and we are convinced that it will do the same here.”
Since its launch in late 2021, Project Aastha has assisted over 7,30,000 patients in 13 hospitals around the country: Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai; B. Baruah Hospital, Guwahati; Homi Bhabha Hospital, Varanasi & Muzzarfarpur; Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Patna; Regional Cancer Center (RCC), Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Medical College, Raipur; The Gujarat Cancer & Research Institute, Ahmedabad; Safdarjung Hospital, Delhi; Arrignar Anna Memorial Cancer Hospital, Kanchipuram; Adyar Cancer Institute, Chennai; Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital, Srinagar; and Victoria Hospital, Bangalore.
Commenting on the program, Dr. Rajat Jain, President, of Doctors for You said, “Project Aastha furthers our vision of ‘Health for All.’ The burden of cancer is especially enormous for individuals from vulnerable communities and weak support systems. We are happy to partner with Pfizer to extend support to patients and their families for their treatment journey.”
(1) Ians. Real cancer cases up to 3 times higher than reported in India: Report [Internet]. Business Standard News. Business-Standard; 2022 [cited 2022Dec19]. Available from: https://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/real-cancer-cases-up-to-3-times-higher-than-reported-in-india-report-122101100923_1.html
(2) Rajpal S, Kumar A, Joe W. Economic burden of cancer in India: Evidence from cross-sectional nationally representative household survey, 2014. PloS one. 2018 Feb 26;13(2):e0193320.
(3) More than 50% cancer deaths due to late diagnosis, say docs: Madurai news - Times Of India [Internet]. The Times of India. TOI; [cited 2022Dec23]. Available from: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/madurai/more-than-50-cancer-deaths-due-to-late-diagnosis-say-docs/articleshow/80697048.cms#:~:text=A%20major%20reason%20for%20the,Cancer%20Registry%20Programme%20Report%202020.%20December%2023,%202022,%2010:37%20AM