21% of cancer patients, mostly men below age of 40 years, seek second opinion: Study

The NGO received calls from patients on its helpline for second opinion, mostly from young patients, indicating a rise in cancer cases among younger people.
Image used for representational purposes only.
Image used for representational purposes only.

NEW DELHI: Nearly 21 percent of cancer patients who sought a second opinion for their treatment were below the age of 40 years and most of them were men a study has found.

The study conducted by an NGO launched by a group of oncologists found that the most common cases were head and neck cancers.

According to the Cancer Mukt Bharat Foundation, the NGO that received calls from patients on its helpline for second opinion, most were young patients, indicating a rise in cancer cases among younger people.

Most of the calls were from Hyderabad. It was followed by Meerut, Mumbai, and New Delhi.

The NGO which launched its helpline number 93-555-20202 for the patients to seek second opinion free of cost – received 1,368 calls between March 1 and May 15.

The study showed that 60 percent of the cancer patients below the age of 40 years were men.

The most prevalent cases were head and neck cancers (26 percent), followed closely by gastrointestinal cancers (16 percent), breast cancers (15 percent, and blood cancers (9 percent).

The study also found that 67 percent of the cancer patients who reached out to them were the ones who were receiving cancer treatment from private hospitals.

While 33 percent were those who were taking treatments from government hospitals.

Dr. Ashish Gupta, principal investigator and senior oncologist who is heading the Cancer Mukt Bharat Campaign said that since the launch of the helpline number, it has proven to be a support system for cancer patients across India, and almost hundreds of calls are received every day.

"This study helps us make a more targeted cancer approach towards treatment and make India 'Cancer Mukt'. We found head and neck cancer was most prevalent which is nearly entirely preventable by lifestyle modification, vaccinations, and screening strategies for finding cancer in the early stages.”

He said, unfortunately, as is representative of the population at large in India, nearly two-thirds of cancers were detected late likely due to low adoption of proper screening.

The study found that 27 percent of cases diagnosed in India are in stages 1 and 2 of cancer whereas 63 percent are in stage 3 or 4 cancer.

The most common question of the cancer patients was for a second opinion and to confirm whether their cancer treatment was correct and up to date.

He said some also check the availability of the latest treatment or medicine to treat their respective cancer; in cancer treatment, new medicines are approved almost weekly.

The NGO aims to reduce the incidence and impact of cancer on individuals and communities through education and early detection, Dr Gupta said.

'In our country escalating rates of obesity, change in dietary habits, specifically the increase in consumption of ultra-processed food, and sedentary lifestyles also are associated with higher cancer rates. We must adopt a healthy lifestyle and avoid the use of tobacco and alcohol to prevent the risk of cancer in the younger generation,” he added.

The helpline is operational from 10 am to 5 pm from Monday to Saturday. It offers a free opinion from leading oncologists, providing crucial guidance to patients navigating the complexities of cancer diagnosis and treatment.

He said that cancer patients can call the helpline number to speak to leading oncologists directly or even do a video call to discuss their cancer treatment.

India reported more than 14 lakh new cancer cases and over 9 lakh deaths due to the disease in 2022, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

According to the Apollo Hospitals’ recent Health of the Nation 2024 report, by 2025, this number is expected to rise to 15.7 lakhs. The study also said the skyrocketing cases of cancer in India have made it the “cancer capital of the world.”

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