Community Screening for Detecting Abnormalities in Oral Cavity, Cervix, & Breast (in Women) and Oral Cavity & Prostate (in Men) that are Indicative of Progression to Cancer can help scores of people in early detection and treatment of cancer. This unmet health need can save scores of lives that may otherwise succumb due to lack of early cancer management.
The most commonly occurring cancers in India that are fully treatable if detected early are cervical, breast & oral cancers in women and prostate & oral cancers in men. There is sufficient available evidence that access to primary screening and treatment interventions for these cancers is still a major challenge for underprivileged populations. The need of the hour is, therefore, to operationalize multi-cancer community screening using primary screening methods and linking it with treatment and follow-up actions.
According to National cancer statistics, cervical cancer tops the list of women’s cancers with about 1.4 lakh new cases (30% of global burden) and 80,000 deaths annually. Sufficient evidence supports that awareness about the disease is poor and women seek help at a very advanced stage. Incidence and mortality of breast cancer is increasing especially among young, urban women in India. About 76% of breast cancer cases are detected in metastatic stage. Oral cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in India and 56,000 new cases are reported each year. Prostate cancer is one of the most prevalent malignancies occurring in men, which is easily curable if detected early and treated timely. About 85% of prostate cancers are detected at late stage in India.
With this backdrop, promotion of health literacy at community level assumes importance as creating awareness about the early symptoms, risk factors and prevention of common cancers could significantly alleviate the disease burden. Easy-to-understand scientifically designed educational material (pamphlets, booklet and posters) is instrumental in creating awareness for cancer prevention through early detection and timely treatment.
In addition, community cancer screening using simple, primary methods is the need of the hour whereby suspect cases could be counselled to get advanced screening tests/treatment done in appropriate referral hospitals. Primary screening tools suitable for low-resource community setting include Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIA) for Cervical Cancer; Clinical Breast Examination (CBE) for Breast Cancer; Oral Visual Inspection for Oral Cancer and Direct Rectal Examination (DRE)/uroflow meter test for prostate diseases. Understandably, if women and men with precancer are detected early and provided prompt treatment, many lives could be saved from progressing to invasive cancer. Let us together act promptly and help achieve victory over cancer for scores of people are not as privileged like us.
A.  Regular community advocacy cum screening multi-cancer camps in a given area.
B.  The location of such multi-cancer camps could be villages; residential societies in rural, urban or semi-urban areas; offices; schools; colleges and hospitals.
C.  In every camp, a gynaecologist examines 25-30 women for cervical and breast cancers. Same number of men are examined by a urologist for prostate diseases. Participating men & women are also checked for abnormalities in oral/buccal cavity.
D.  Medicines (if required) and educational material are distributed on-site.
E.  Suspect cases of any of the screened cancers are referred to hospitals/cancer centres for free treatment. If required, to-and-fro service is provided to underprivileged people for advanced screening/treatment.
F.  Follow-ups are done for tracking the outcome of on-going check-ups/treatments up to complete recovery (CR).
The unmet health need of cancer prevention can be only addressed through creating awareness about cancer coupled with early diagnosis and timely cancer management among people of different strata of society, particularly the lesser privileged populations.