KOCHI: Cervical cancer is preventable as vaccination is available worldwide. Still Kerala which is on a par with developed nations in its healthcare indices has not been able to tackle the alarming increase in the number of cases. It is definitely the failure of the public health care system, said Dr Scott E Storme, professor and chairman, Department of Otorhinolaryngology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore US. “The vaccine should be administered to boys and girls before they are sexually active. I have vaccinated my children. We should aim towards ‘herd immunity’ (a form of immunity that occurs when the vaccination of a significant portion of a population (or herd) provides a measure of protection for individuals who have not developed immunity). Dr Scott was in Kochi to address a conference on Otorhinolaryngology updates along with his colleague Dr Rodney J Taylor, Associate Professor, Department of Otorhinolaryngology, organised by Association of Otorhinolaryngologists of India (AOI), Kochi, and the Medical Trust Hospital.
However, he also showered praises on the advancements the state has made in the health care sector. “Your folks are doing a terrific job. The mindset as well as the political and legal effort Keralites have taken when it comes to taking precautions or treating any disease is truly laudable. Unfortunately, the mindset is lacking even in the United States,” said Dr Rodney Taylor.
The experts who are here to talk on head and neck cancer said that smoking, alcohol and Human Papillomavirus (HPV) are the main causes for head and neck cancer and even cervical cancer in women.” We do not know how certain sections of people develop cancer on exposure to HPV. The prognosis of HPV+ patients who smoke and drink is worse when compared with HPV+ patients who do not drink and smoke,” he said. The medication available is radiation and chemotherapy. “But it has serious side effects such as difficulty in swallowing, dry mouth and other associated complications. Now our priority is to find medicines that have lesser repercussions but could improve quality of life,” said Dr Scott.
When asked what the state’s weakness was in healthcare, he said, Kerala should concentrate on improving research. “The state has enough talents, but it lags behind in research. It might be because research might not be the top priority of the funding agency. But it is an area where the state can reap huge benefits,” said Dr Rodney.