BENGALURU: A month ago, 38-year-old Bakappa, a driver from Bidar, was diagnosed with tongue cancer. When he approached Victoria Hospital for treatment, he was told to attend 35 radiotherapy sessions.
Speaking with a lisp following his first radiotherapy session, he said, “I feel nauseous and find it difficult to swallow.” Bakappa has been admitted to the hospital as he can’t afford treatment as an out-patient.
While treating head and neck cancer, many patients develop cataract because of the radiation. “Patients with cervical cancer get diarrhoea. Side effects of radiotherapy are evident,” said a doctor at Victoria Hospital.
At the female cancer ward at Victoria Hospital, Shameem, 55, is resting after completing radiotherapy sessions for breast cancer. “I feel weak and had loose motions during the treatment. It subsided after a week of completing the treatment,” she said.
In the paper titled ‘Fifty Years of Cancer Control in India’ published in 2002 as part of the National Cancer Control Programme, Dr KS Reddy, HOD, JIPMER radiation oncology, writes, “Cobalt units do not give the ideal depth dose and require complicated plans to deliver the effective tumour dose in cervical, oesophagus, lung and prostate cancer.”
The paper explains that the major problem with these units is the decaying source, reduced output, resulting in increased treatment times. This in turn will reduce the patient output. While the source needs to be replaced every 5-7 years, it is becoming more expensive and harder to procure, the paper states.
Dr B S Ajai Kumar, founder and chairman of Health Care Global, said, “The problem with cobalt is there is scattered radiation which causes side effects on other organs. The technologies that come with LINAC are very specific, because of which there is minimal tissue injury and we get better outcomes. The western world phased out cobalt several decades ago. Patients say that the side effects of cancer are worse than the disease itself. This outlook is partly because of Cobalt. Cancer needs to be treated right the first time. We believe there should be no place for Cobalt therapy in this country.”