Cancer care is big business. And we’re taking it on with some 'big guns'. Given how the incidence on breast and cervical cancer is on the rise in Tamil Nadu, it isn’t surprising that all the multi-specialty corporate hospitals have jumped on to the oncology wagon, using high-powered radiation machines that deliver doses to specific organs in the body.
Global Hospitals are the latest to enter the fray, when they inaugurated their Global Institute of Cancer Care recently. Inaugurated by Governor K Rosaiah, the cancer centre will be a huge advantage for people in South Chennai, who can obtain cancer care there.
Targetted radiation-delivery using 'smart' machines were first introduced to the city in mid-2009 at Apollo Hospitals, who built their Cancer Specialty Hospital around the Cyber Knife. Following this, MIOT hospitals were the next to procure the Truebeam – a similar device that delivered radiation doses to moving organs like the liver and lungs, without harming peripheral tissue.
And just before Global Hospitals installed their state-of-the-art Truebeam machine, the Adyar Cancer Institute also procured a similar machine to coincide with the beginning of their 60th year.
The good news is that with all the expensive machinery being brought in, the number of beds for cancer care have also gone up exponentially. While Global Hospitals has added close to 100 beds for cancer care with the inauguration of the centre, MIOT may be able to allocate more beds (in addition to their existing 100 beds) once their expansion is done. At that time, Dr PVA Mohandoss had said that they had invested over Rs 45 crore in the equipment because of the sheer volume of cancer patients they had been seeing.
Despite being expensive, the low treatment time and impressive results have drawn a lot of people to try this treatment. “Though we see a large number of patients who cannot afford private care come in for chemotherapy, we have had the same patients ask about how much these treatments will cost in private hospitals,” said an oncologist at the Government Royapettah Hospital. Some of them have even saved money in the hope of trying it and being cured, he added.
It is unlikely that the government can afford equipment costing between Rs 35-60 crore, which cannot be used en masse. “These machines will not be able to handle the number of patients we get in our cancer centre, and we cannot discriminate. For us, chemotherapy, palliative care and surgery are the best options in the public sector,” said a professor at the Madras Medical College.
So how expensive is it? “When we look at complex cancer treatment and the results that it achieves compared to simple chemotherapy, it goes without saying that the costs will be that much more. But, it is our committment to ensure that it is affordable to almost all classes of people, because cancer is a disease that can affect anyone,” said Global Hospitals Chairman Dr K Ravindranath.
On an average, treatments are estimated to cost anywhere between Rs 4-15 lakh, depending on the intensity, duration and complexity of the treatment.