Health ministry launches online tutorials to help doctors detect cancer earlier

Anish Passi
1st Mar 2018
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The launch of India’s first online Oncology tutorial heralds a new age of learning preventive, detection, palliative and remedial measures for cancer disease, through a web platform. Already ranked among the top 10 leading causes of death in the country (TOI report), records show that the high mortality rate caused by the disease is caused by a list of factors, and top on the list is the late diagnosis of the disease due to a late report by most patients. Other factors; include the high cost of treatment that makes the care service prohibitively expensive for the middle and lower class. Also, the limited number of specialists in oncology makes it impossible for the entire country to have proper care. According to statistics provided by the NICPR, there are around 2.5 million people in India who’re daily battling with cancer, and there have been approximately 5,56,400 cancer-related deaths.

The online oncology-learning program addresses all the factors that make the chronic disease cause a high mortality rate. Already described by Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Preeti Sudan as a

 “visionary step that will leverage advances in IT to strengthen health outreach and health services in the country,” 

the online oncology training is expected to boost the capacity of the Indian health sector to combat the disease, especially in the rural areas where there is an inadequate number of health workers who have the skills to detect and treat the ailment.

In rural India, cancer is still considered as a disease that has no cure - the primary reason behind this is that the doctors present in these areas lack the skills to detect cancer early. Identifying it during the terminal stages is of little help as it gives very little time for doctors to apply remedial measures talk more of observing an improvement in the health of the patient. Consequently, it is essential to identify the disease at the onset through its early symptoms; and that is only possible when the symptoms of the various types of cancer are known.

Although many institutes in the country impart state-of-the-art education to young doctors to help them teach the preventive measures of cancer, such a facility is far from reaching rural households and the underprivileged section of the country. There is an evident lack of awareness in the general public, and even in the doctors that aren’t cancer specialists, but this shouldn’t be the case.

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In light of these challenges and with the aim to decrease the mortality rate from cancer and ultimately improve the healthcare standards of the country, Tata Memorial Centre, in collaboration with the Health Ministry launched the online tutorial series to spread awareness on cancer among doctors. The tutorial series was formulated and created by the Tata Memorial Center in collaboration with the Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India. Through this tutorial, the government aims to equip health workers with the skills to detect, prevent, and treat various types of cancers as well as the rehabilitation of cancer patients - something which is very poor in the country.

This initiative will be provided in collaboration with various state health ministries. According to the mission statement made by the Health Secretary, Preeti Sudan, the tutorial is not created only for oncologists or doctors dealing with cancer; it is also designed to educate health professionals working in various departments of a health center. These non-oncologists working in medical centers have more contact with patients; therefore, they have a better chance of catching the signs of cancer early on.

The tutorial is provided through video lectures designed to educate health professional on cancer detection, management, treatment, and rehabilitation of treated cancer patient. It comprises of various modules on the types of cancer with information on their early signs, and how to combat them. The entire training will run for seven weeks. It will provide the doctors with state-of-the-art e-learning experience of 14 hours of around 40 lectures in the form of a video. Apart from these lectures, there will also be case studies, assessments, and interactive web seminars with the experienced doctors of TATA memorial. Health professionals can enroll for the course by registering on the following website: https://tmc.gov.in/.

The benefits of this initiative are far-reaching, starting from the easy access to information to the flexibility given to millions of eligible participants who are not able to register for physical lectures due to lack of time, money, or other resources. Now, they have a chance to gain cancer detection, prevention and treatment knowledge at their own pace. This technology has not only been a boom in the healthcare sector but also in the education sector, where these candidates are given access to good quality online-classroom training for various exams like UPSC, IITJEE to name a few.

Among cancer patients and potential patients, this program will reduce death rate and increase the chances of being treated due to early detection. This will help to reduce the mortality rate from cancer and improve the countries health records. The reduced cost of diagnosis and treatment is another benefit of the online Oncology training. Cost for diagnosis will be almost non-existent, as the medical practitioners will offer the service free. If everything goes right, India will be able to challenge the statistics of cancer-related deaths by 2030. It is a long way, but we will get there hopefully!

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