India’s cancer burden may be higher than what the official figures indicate, suggests a recent report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare. The report, presented to Parliament last month, says only 10% of the population is covered by the Population Based Cancer Registry (PBCR), a key source of data for the National Cancer Registry Programme (NCRP). A hospital-based cancer registry is the other source of data for NCRP.
In India, the burden of cancer is estimated to have resulted in a loss of 26.7 million Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) in 2021. The estimated incidence of new cancer cases in the country was 13.92 lakh, 13.58 lakh and 13.25 lakh in 2020, 2019 and 2018, respectively. The report says cancer cases are estimated to be higher in the north and north-eastern region of the country, and more among males than females. Lung (10.6%), breast (10.5%), oesophagus (5.8%), mouth (5.7%), stomach (5.2%), liver (4.6%) and cervix uteri (4.3%) were considered to be the major types of cancer affecting Indians.

The parliamentary panel, headed by Ram Gopal Yadav, called for the establishment of more rural-based PBCRs to get realistic information about the incidence and type of cancers across the country. “The committee recommends National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research (ICMR) to take requisite action to set up a population-based cancer registry in rural areas in the States like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana, Orissa to ensure the coverage of the population by the registry in these states. Such requisite action is all the more necessary to collect data and information not only for policy making on cancer treatment but also for uniform distribution of cancer care,” the report says.
The committee also called for an integration of the real-time health records on a digital platform like a central registry system to enable pan-India access to the data without any duplication for a better understanding of the cancer burden in the country. The committee also pointed out that cancer is still not classified as a notifiable disease, which results in underreporting of cancer deaths. Ambiguity on the actual cause of death is a major hurdle in data collection, it said.

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