Cancer Treatment in India

Cancer is a deadly disease; it claims to be one of the highest global causes of deaths worldwide. Cancer in India, claims approximately 12 lakh new cases every year out of which 8 lakhs lose their battle against this fatal disease, the reason being unawareness and expensive treatment. However, one can recover from cancer if they have the opportunity to get timely diagnosis and treatment.

By Darshan Sharma

Updated on 20th, Jun'20

India is the right destination for cancer treatment as all major cities have wide treatment options with high success rates and the best part is it will not burn a hole in your pocket thus, making cancer treatment in India affordable.

I. Surgery

One of the best cancer treatments in India includes Surgery which is the primary treatment option to treat cancer.

 

It is a medical procedure in which surgeons use small thin knives called scalpels to remove the cancerous tumour and the nearby healthy tissues during an operation to prevent the cancer cells from spreading.

cancer-surgery


 

The extent of surgery and its successful outcome depends on the type of cancer, its size, stage, distribution and location.

 

In India, we have acclaimed surgeons who can perform complex surgeries. The cancer hospitals over here are equipped with the latest technology and equipment required to perform surgeries.

The latest surgical procedures like minimally invasive surgery and robotic surgery in India is available at affordable costs.

 

Following are the reasons why surgery is performed as a cancer treatment:

 

These types of surgery vary based on the purpose of the surgery, part of the body that requires surgery, the amount of tissue to be removed, and in some cases, patient’s preference is also considered. The two major types of surgeries are:

  1. Open Surgery – In this procedure, the surgeon makes a large cut to remove the tumour and nearby tissues and lymph nodes.
  2. Minimally Invasive Surgery –  Here, the surgeon makes few small cuts through which a long, thin tube with a tiny camera is inserted. This allows the surgeon to see and remove the tumour and surrounding healthy tissues.
  3. Cryosurgery – This surgery technique uses liquid nitrogen, which is extremely cold, to kill cancer cells by placing it on the skin or inserting it into the body via an instrument.
  4. Laser Surgery – The beams of light energy are used to shrink or destroy the very small cancer tumours from sites that are difficult to reach.
  5. Electrosurgery – Electric current is used to kill cancer cells in this procedure.
  6. Microscopically Controlled Surgery – This surgical procedure is useful in case cancer affects delicate parts of the body such as the eye. Layers of the skin are removed and examined under the microscope until cancer cells cannot be detected.

Surgery is a highly successful option for cancer treatment in India, but some of the common side-effects caused by surgery includes pain, infection, bleeding, damage to nearby tissues and reactions to the anesthesia.

 

II. Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is an aggressive form of chemical drug therapy in which anticancer drugs are given to stop the cancer cells from growing rapidly.

 

It interferes with the cancer cell’s ability to divide and reproduce.

 

Chemotherapy is considered as Systematic treatment and can work throughout the whole body, unlike Surgery and Radiation Therapy which focuses on certain areas.

 

Thus, it can kill cancer cells that have spread to other parts of the body i.e. which have metastasized.

 

Chemotherapy is a successful option for cancer treatment in India. Here, highly skilled medical oncologists have tremendous knowledge about this treatment and have effectively combined it with other therapies to make it more effective. Also, the latest advancements and new drugs are easily available in India.

 

The chemotherapy cost in India is very less as compared to other countries as patients can save at least 50% of the cost in hospitals over here.

 

Following are some of the methods of giving chemotherapy:

  1. Orally – Drugs are given either in capsules or liquid form which patients can take orally.
  2. Intravenous Chemotherapy - The drugs can be injected directly into the vein with a needle.
  3. Topically - It can be applied to the skin as a cream.
  4. Direct Placement – This method is used to treat a brain tumor. Here, chemotherapy can be given via lumbar puncture or device that is placed under the scalp.

Chemotherapy doses are given in cycles, it can be a one-day treatment or can go on for fourteen days depending on the type and stage of cancer.

 

This treatment option is recommended by the doctors to cure cancer permanently. And in case, the cure is not possible, chemo is used to keep cancer from further growing and spreading. It can also be used as palliative care to ease the symptoms caused by cancer.

 

Chemotherapy treatment is used as:

It is an invasive treatment option and can have adverse effects because it not only targets cancer cells but also healthy cells. Like any treatment, it has some risks and side effects going in, to know about them you can click here.

 

III. Radiation Therapy

Radiation Therapy is the type of cancer treatment in which high doses of energy beams or radiation like X-rays, Gamma rays, protons, or electron beams are used to kill the cancer cells and destroy their ability to grow and divide.

 

Radiation works by making small breaks in the DNA inside the cells and slows down the growth of the cancer cells by damaging the DNA.

 

You might be wondering what India has to offer related to Radiation Therapy. The cancer hospitals in India have all the latest state-of-the-art-technologies which are at par with other developed countries.

We are among those few countries that have Proton Therapy, the recent advancement in Radiation Therapy. Also, the cost of Radiation therapy is far more cost-effective in India compared to other countries.

 

There are two ways of giving Radiation Therapy:

 

1. External Beam Radiation Therapy: A machine is used in this procedure which directs the radio waves at the tumour from outside the body. The energy beams are generated by a linear accelerator and are targeted to destroy the cancer cells. This procedure does not harm the surrounding healthy tissues. Also, it may be used to relieve the symptoms of advanced cancer stage.

Radiation Therapy

2. Internal Radiation Therapy: It is also known as Brachytherapy. A radioactive substance such as seeds, pellets, ribbons, wires, needles, tubes, or capsules is implanted inside the body near the cancerous tumour to shrink and kill the cancer cells.

 

Radiation Therapy is given in cycles for a period of one to eight weeks depending on the type and stage of cancer. It is usually given once a day, five times a week and it takes 15-30 minutes each time.

 

Radiation Therapy can be used as:

Although radiation therapy is a very effective treatment option, it has its side effects and risks associated with it. To learn about all the risks and side-effects associated with radiation therapy, you can click here.

 

IV. Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a form of cancer treatment in India that uses the body's natural defenses to prevent, control and eliminate cancer.

 

The other name for Immunotherapy is Biological Therapy. This therapy works by stimulating the immune system to work harder to attack the cancer cells by using substances made by the body or in a laboratory such as man-made immune system proteins to improve immune system function.

 

The cost of immunotherapy is usually high, but in India, it is comparatively more cost-effective compared to other countries. Due to research, we don’t have to import drugs from other developed countries as we are developing them at our state-of-the-art advanced laboratories which have reduced its cost.

 

Following are the methods of giving immunotherapy:

  1. Oral – The drugs can be given either in the form of pills or capsules that patients can swallow.
  2. Intravenous (IV) – It can be injected directly into a vein through injection.
  3. Topical – Immunotherapy can be given in the form of a cream that can be rub onto the skin. It is used for the early stage of skin cancer.
  4. Intravesical – A liquid drug is put directly into the bladder in this treatment approach.

The types of immunotherapy are:

  • Monoclonal antibodies
  • Checkpoint inhibitors
  • T-cell therapy
  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Cytokines

This therapy is given in cycles that are once in three weeks. This treatment is given till the cancer is cured, so it can go on from a few months to a maximum of two years.

 

Immunotherapy is not widely used as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy but it has its benefits and risks.

 

The benefits are:

infographic-4

 

But there are risks and side effects associated with this treatment option, which you can learn more about through clicking here, the most common ones are such as:

infographic-5

 

V. Bone Marrow Transplant

BMT

It is a medical procedure in which the bone marrow that has been damaged or destroyed by the blood cancer/disorders is replaced with healthy bone marrow.

 

The transplant involves extracting the healthy stem cells, filtering those cells and putting them back in the patient’s bone marrow or the donor’s where it can produce new blood cells.

 

This procedure is also known as the Stem Cell Transplant.

 

Bone marrow helps the body to make enough white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets to avoid infection, anaemia or bleeding disorders. And this procedure is specifically performed in cases of Blood cancers/disorders.

 

Why India can be a preferred place to get bone marrow transplantation? In India, there are internationally acclaimed BMT centres where extremely trained and experienced doctors perform complex transplants. Also, the technology and infrastructure for BMT in India is on par with the developed countries.

 

One of the biggest draws for the most international patients is also the cost of bone marrow transplant in India. As this is a complex cancer treatment that demands a specific infrastructure, the overall cost of the treatment is high. But in India, it is more cost-effective compared to other countries.

 

Thus, patients suffering from cancer can get the best cancer treatment in India.

 

There are two major types of Bone Marrow Transplant:

  1. Autologous bone marrow transplant – In this procedure, the patient’s healthy stem cells are taken out before they are treated with high doses of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
    After the treatment, the cells are infused back into the body so that they can start making healthy blood cells to replace the damaged ones.
  2. Allogenic bone marrow transplant – In this procedure, stem cells are taken from the donor based on their HLA type i.e. donor’s genes should match with that of the patients.

 

VI. Hormone Therapy

Hormone-Therapy-1

Hormone Therapy is a form of systematic therapy that adds, blocks, or removes those hormones which help the cancer cells to grow. This therapy is specifically used in cases of prostate and breast cancer.

Prostate and Breast cancers are some of the common cancers that affect the people in India. And hormonal therapy is one of the crucial options available for cancer treatment in India.

 

The country has the best doctors who have extensive knowledge about this therapy and are successfully treating patients with it. Also, constant research and development are being done to introduce new drugs and improve the existing ones.

 

Hormone Therapy reduces the risk of cancer returning and may prevent or relieve the symptoms caused by cancer. The hormone levels in the body are changed by removing the organ or gland responsible for producing hormones, treating the gland or the organ with radiation to destroy the hormone-producing cells, or through hormonal drug therapy in which taking drugs to interfere or suppress the production of hormones.

 

This therapy can be used as:

infographic-7


 Hormone Therapy may be given in the form of

  • pills, or
  • by a shot, or
  • surgery can be performed to remove the organs that produce the hormones.

Since, this procedure blocks the body’s ability to produce hormones or interferes with their behaviour, it can cause some unwanted side effects. Further, some of these side effects may differ because of the gender.

 

VII. Targeted Therapy

Targeted Therapy

Targeted Therapy uses drugs that target cancer’s specific genes, proteins or the tissues that are contributing in the cancer’s growth and survival.

 

As targeted therapy, targets specific genetic influencing the growth of cancer cells. It is different from Chemotherapy, where it targets fast-growing cells throughout the body irrespective of whether they are cancerous or not.

 

This treatment option has evolved into a blessing for cancer patients as it is an effective therapy for treating various types of cancer. And this latest cancer treatment in India is available at cost which is affordable. Also, continuous research is being done to find out the effectiveness of targeted therapy when combined with other therapies specifically, chemotherapy.

 

Types of Targeted Therapy include:

  1. Monoclonal Antibodies – These antibodies attack the target on the outside of the cells. Sometimes, they are used to deliver radiation and chemo, directly to the cancer cells.
  2. Small Molecule Drugs – These drugs are so small that they can easily slip inside the cancer cells and destroy them.

 

Why opt for cancer treatment in India?

India is fast developing and technology adopting the country. Research and Development are continuously done to introduce new and revolutionary treatments. The technology used in the hospitals here is at par with those of the developed countries. Disease like Cancer requires extensive treatment which is available in India at economic costs. Thus, people from all over the world can get the best cancer treatment in India.

 

These are some of the factors that have made India a preferred medical destination:

  1. Internationally Accredited Hospitals – There are best cancer hospitals in India that are internationally accredited and have high standards of treatment at par with the hospitals of developed countries.
  2. Skilled and Experienced Doctors – The doctors practicing in Indian hospitals are highly acclaimed and skilled. They have many years of experience and are trained at globally recognized institutes. There are best oncologists in India whose expertise are recognized all over the world.
  3. Affordable Treatment – One of the major reasons to choose this country is cancer treatment cost in India is quite affordable. The generic drugs available here are less priced as compared to international countries which help in reducing the cost. Also, the Indian currency’s value is less than the currencies of countries like the USA, UK, etc. But the quality of treatment is not compromised due to low cost. That’s the reason why people from both developed as well as underdeveloped countries come to India for treatment.
  4. Advanced Technology – All the latest technologies that are available in developed countries are available in India as well. The hospitals over here are well-equipped with the latest machines and tools which are required in cancer treatment.
  5. Research & Development – The government of India spends a significant amount of funds in the Research & Development of Medical field.
    As of now, the Department Of Biotechnology Ministry Of Science & Technology, Government Of India (DBT) has funded more than 300 projects on different aspects of cancer research.
    The main goal of their research is to find:
    biomarkers for early diagnosis; prognosis; molecular pathology of different cancers, target identification, synthetic chemistry for target inhibition, animal- model system development better chemotherapeutic agents etc.
    So, continuous research is being done here by the doctors and scientists to ultimately find the cure for cancer.
  6. Access to New Drugs – Extensive research in the medical field has led to the development of new and highly effective drugs for cancer treatment. Also, all the drugs which are introduced in the global market are easily accessible in India.
  7. Medical Visa Availability – To get Medical Visas approved in India is faster than other countries due to less waiting time. Also, priority is given to patients who are suffering from life-threatening diseases.
  8. World Class Services – The hospitals in India have great infrastructure and are famous for their world-class services. Premium and personalized services are given to the patients over here such as personal medical staff, language translators, etc which are comparatively economical than developed countries.

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