Srinagar, Jun 19: There is only one PET-CT scan for staging and assessment of the treatment response of patients despite the steep rise in cancer patients in the valley.
The oncologists said Kashmir “badly needs” a few more PET-CT scan machines for the proper management of cancer in poor people.
An oncologist, wishing not to be named, said that in the modern-day practice of oncology, PET-CT has emerged as a game-changer in the management of cancer.
“It constitutes a major advancement in the initial diagnosis, evaluation, treatment, prognosis, surveillance and relapse throughout the course of the disease by adding precision of anatomical imaging to functional imaging,” he said.
PET-CT is an acronym for Positron Emission Tomography – Computed Tomography which is nuclear medicine equipment that houses a PET scanner and a CT scanner, to acquire multiple sequential views to create 3D images of the body. This modality provides a hybrid image formed by the fusion of the functional image of PET and the anatomical image of CT.
Dr Shabnam, who is Kashmir’s first female organ-specific Oncosurgeon, said that Kashmir “badly needs” more PET CT SCAN facilities for the proper management of cancer patients as there are just two facilities available that is one at SKIMS and another at Medicare. This type of scan isn’t recommended in all cases as it has its own indications and limitations, she added.
Dr Zahoor, another oncologist from SKIMS Soura, said PET-CT is needed for staging and assessment of treatment response in selective patients while it doesn’t have much role in early detection.
A senior doctor from GMC Srinagar said the facility must be available at GMC Srinagar given the number of patients who are visiting for treatment. The patients suffer in the absence of PET scan which is an essential tool to detect cancer, he said, adding, “Just a few patients can go for PET-CT at SKIMS on a daily basis while others have to wait for a long time for their turn.”
The doctor said that the majority of patients cannot afford to go for a private diagnosis which results in compromising on the diagnosis. “PET-CT is helping doctors to work out the best treatment and helps to detect primary site thereby influencing the choice of chemotherapy,” he said.
Around 14 thousand new cancer patients have been registered with Regional Cancer Center at the Sheri Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) Soura in the last three years as a total of 4,737 cancer cases were reported in the year 2021, up from 3,840 cases of cancer in 2020 while 5284 new patients were registered in year 2022.
According to data from the Union Health Ministry, 51,577 cases of cancer were reported in J&K in the last four years (2019-2022) with 12,396 in 2019, 12,726 cases in 2020, 13,060 cases in 2021, and 13,395 cases in 2022.
A total of 35,623 people in J&K died with cancer between the years 2018 and 2022 that is 6824 cancer patients were reported to have died in 2018; in 2019, 7003 deaths were reported; in 2020, 7189 deaths were reported; in 2021, 7211 deaths were reported; and in 2022, 7396 cancer patient fatalities were reported.
A 2012 study by the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) attributed the rising cancer incidence to “dietary practices and lifestyle choices” as well as the intake of foods with high salt content.