- Oral cancer is
one of the top three cancers that are prevalent in India
- It is estimated
that 1.7 million people will be affected by oral cancer by the year 2035
shares her experience about working with cancer patients, the risk factors
of the disease, and emphasizes that cancer is preventable
Oral cancer awareness
month is observed to improve understanding about oral cancer, which is any
malignant neoplasm found on the floor of the mouth, the lip, lining of the
tongue or the palate. Most of the oral cancer cases are squamous cell carcinoma.
There is a high prevalence of oral cancer in India and it is among the top
three cancers prevalent in the country.
Factors for Oral Cancer:
- Excessive alcohol
- Smoking Tobacco
- Chewing tobacco
- Chewing betel nut
- Poor dental care
- Poor diet
- Human Papilloma
Studies conducted in
India have shown that oral
cancer is highly prevalent in low income families. This is
because low income families are subjected to
- Poor nutrition
- Inadequate living
- Habits and
behavior that increase risk for oral cancer
and Oral Cancer:
In India and similar
other developing nations, patients from low income and middle income families
do not have access to good, well organized, quality cancer treatment
facilities. To complicate procedures, these families are often faced with high
treatment expenditures which can further push them into poverty.
Incidence of Oral Cancer in
- Oral cancer
incidence in India is 20 per
- It constitutes 30% of all cancers.
- Every day, more
than 5 people in India die
every hour due to oral cancer.
According to The
International Agency for Research on Cancer:
- The incidence of
oral cancer is estimated to increase from 1 million in 2012 to more than 1.7 million in the year 2035.
- The death rate
due to this form of cancer will also increase from 680000 to 1- 2 million during the same period.
Since cancer registry is
not compulsory in India, the present incidence of oral cancer could be higher
than recorded. In the United.States, 49,750
new incidences of oral cancer are identified every year. Patients who do
survive this type of cancer suffer from facial disfigurement and difficulties
while speaking and eating. There is a high mortality rate associated with this
cancer as it is usually identified during the later stages of the disease. Globally, one person dies due to oral cancer every hour, increasing the need to raise awareness about the
‘Oral Cancer can be prevented by maintaining good oral hygiene, food habits and restraining from smoking tobacco.’
As a part of World Oral
Cancer Day 2017, Medindia conducted an exclusive interview with Dr. V.Shantha, present Chairman & Executive Chairman of
the Cancer Institute (WIA) Adyar,
A well-known and
distinguished doctor, she committed her life to improving the lives of cancer
patients. Dr V.Shanta was born in a distinguished scientific family, her
maternal grandfather’s brother was Sir.
C.V.Raman and her mother’s brother was Shri.
Chandrashekar, both Nobel Laureates. She joined the Cancer Institute in
1955, which was established by the Womens’ Indian Association Cancer Relief
Fund in 1954. She has dedicated over 50
years to the mission of organizing care of cancer patients. Dr. Shantha
played an important role in the development of the Cancer Institute (WIA), from
a cottage hospital of 12 beds to an important landmark in cancer care, of
national and international repute.
Some of her achievements and
important positions held include
- Padma Bhushan
award winner (2006)
Award For Public Service, Phillipines
- WHO Advisory
Committee on Cancer till March 2005
- Chairman of the
INDO-US Collaborative Group on Lymphoid Neoplasias (Indian Chapter)
- Convener of the
State Advisory Board on Cancer
- Involved in many
- Member of the
Syndicate of the Anna University
- Member of the
ICMR Task Force on Registries
- President of the
Indian Society of Oncology (1988-1990)
- President of the
15th Asian & Pacific Cancer Conference (1999)
- President of the
Asian & Pacific Federation of Organizations for Cancer Control
- Participated in a
number of International Scientific Collaborative Programs
- Published over 95
papers in national and international journals
- Contributed many
chapters in popular oncology books
- Delivered many
prestigious lectures and orations
Medindia: What are
the causes for Oral Cancer In India?
Dr. V.Shantha: Lack of
sufficient oral care is one of the important reasons; tobacco smoking and
chewing are other major factors. Even with all the advertisements against
tobacco use, people still continue the practice. Oral cancer is more prevalent
among males than in females because of this habit of tobacco use.
have been associated with one of the premier cancer institutions in India –
what has been the major stumbling block?
major problem that I have faced is misinformation about cancer. The minute you
speak about cancer, they begin to think about death and misfortune. This
institution was considered as the end point for people suffering from cancer;
people who were admitted here were believed to have never been cured. It was
believed that nothing could be done for cancer. In the early days, family
support was lacking and people left their dear ones here with the belief that
they would die. But a lot has changed over the past 60 years, with many
treatment options available. It is a remarkable change and there are many types
of cancers that are curable. But people continue to believe that cancer is not
curable; this has to change, and people’s mindset should change.
In the 1950s pediatric
cancers were fatal, but 60% of the
pediatric cases that we see today are cured. There is an improvement in
survival but the stigma still remains.
Medindia: What are
some of the ways that cancer can be prevented?
The food we eat plays an important role. Habits like tobacco smoking and
consuming alcohol should be restricted and a healthy lifestyle should be
maintained. Lifestyle factors play a significant role. Good oral hygiene practices should be followed, like
rinsing the mouth after every meal and brushing the teeth before going to bed
everyday. One of the main causative factors for oral cancer is the Human
Papilloma Virus or HPV. Sexual hygiene will help lower the risk for cervical
Children are exposed to
passive smoking, which is another factor for cancer. By following proper diet,
hygiene and lifestyle modifications, cancer is preventable.
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved genetic tests to screen for
diseases, including cancer, your comments on this?
Genetic tests for cancer have been available for the past 10 years and they do indicate the
risk for cancer. But they are very expensive and not everyone can afford it.
Further research should be carried out to develop a less expensive method of
testing. There is a lot of research that we carry out in our organization to
improve our understanding of the disease.
Medindia: You entered
the profession when not many women were present. How is the present scenario?
Now there are nearly 50% of women in the medical profession. Though I am happy
with the numbers, I would like to tell the current breed of doctors to follow
an ethical medical practice. There are numerous advances in technology but
empathy is lacking. Nobody wants to care for the patient in terms of providing
emotional support. Doctors should respect the patient, which is of utmost
Medindia: What was it
like when you won the Padma Bhushan award doctor?
Personal awards mean nothing to me. The award is for the institution and the
support it has provided. Nothing is an individual effort, it is the effort of
the entire team that has been recognized. Like Dr. Abdul Kalam said, if we love
the institution that we work for, if we are proud of it, then we will work
Medindia: What is
your message to society on Oral cancer Awareness Month?
Maintain good oral and dental hygiene. Visit the dentist regularly and lead a
- Raise Oral Cancer Awareness – (http://www.aaoms.org/media/raise-oral-cancer-awareness)
- About Oral Cancer Awareness Month – (http://oralcancerfoundation.org/events/oral-head-neck-cancer-awareness-month/)