Cancer Care in India
Cancer is an issue common across the world, without a cure no matter the financial circumstances of a country. The care that is available for treating cancer is expensive, limiting cancer care to individuals who are financially well-off. India is looking to establish universal health care insurance so that more people can access health care and organizations aim to extend the reach of cancer care in India.

India’s Poverty Epidemic

Poverty is one of India’s largest problems, with 256 million inhabitants living below the poverty line of $1.90 a day as of 2020. Poverty is a complicated issue, with many different causes and effects that intertwine. The economic causes of poverty in India include rising rates of unemployment, inadequate infrastructure, slow economic growth and development and resource deprivation. The social causes of poverty include caste system-based discrimination, societal inequality and corruption. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, inflation has increased worldwide, with especially high inflation rates in developing countries.

In countries already struggling with economic instability, like India, inflation hits hard. The cost of living goes up, but it does not always mean that salaries go up to support that. Several organizations aim to unravel the web of poverty by seeking to help the impoverished improve their quality of life.

Cancer and Poverty

Medical care is significantly expensive, even in developed countries. It is no different in India. Along with general inflation, India is also facing increasing medical inflation. In 2021, India noted “the highest medical inflation rate among the Asian countries,” at 14%. In April 2022, the price of medical treatment, including medicines and procedures, rose by 7.21%. These circumstances make it difficult for the impoverished to access health care services in India, let alone specialized cancer care. According to statistics from the National Cancer Registry Programme, about 1.4 million people in India had cancer in 2020.

Because of circumstances of poverty and the expensive nature of health care, among other reasons, the majority of Indian cancer patients often do not receive an official medical diagnosis until the cancer is in its later stages.

Fortunately, the Indian government has recognized this and is moving toward creating universal health care insurance, which would extend health care to more people from lower socioeconomic classes. In particular, this would cover chemotherapy and other cancer medications to improve cancer care in India.

In an article, Dr. Navneet Singh, an expert in “non-small cell lung cancer,” stressed the importance of patient advocacy in countries like India. This involves educating the public on cancer and treatment options. Singh said further that developed countries like the United States can aid India and other developing countries with similar issues “in the area of patient support groups and advocacy platforms.”

CAM Ensures Accessible Health Care

Organizations such as Charutar Arogya Mandal (CAM) aim to make health care accessible and affordable for the impoverished in India. In terms of cancer care, the organization runs a cancer center to provide treatment to impoverished cancer patients. The organization began in 1972 because of the dream of Dr. H.M Patel, a former minister of India. Patel looked to create an institution to “offer comprehensive and compassionate health care to everyone and anyone.” CAM takes special measures for those in less stable economic situations by providing free consultations and free treatment to women and children below the poverty line.

With commitments from the government and organizations, cancer care in India can include the impoverished.

– Kelsey Jensen
Photo: Flickr