The prevalence of head and neck cancer is on the rise in India. On the first-ever 'World Head & Neck Cancer Day,' observed on July 27, doctors emphasized the need to combat this preventable form of cancer.
Dr P C Gupta, director of the Sekhsaria Institute of Public Health in Navi Mumbai, said, "India has been witnessing an increase in the incidence of head and neck cancers, said a study by the Indian Council of Medical Research in 2008. In fact, head and neck cancers are the most common cancers in men and third-most common among women."
"Oral cancer affects 1,00,000 Indians every year. Majority of the patients come so late for treatment that nearly 50% die within a year of detection," said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi of Tata Memorial Hospital.
Nearly 90% of the head and neck cancers are preventable as it is caused due to the use of tobacco, alcohol and areca nuts.
To create awareness about the causes, various head and neck cancer societies have come together to observe July 27 as the 'Head Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma Day'.
"The decision was taken after looking at the success of consecutive breast cancer days in raising awareness about the disease as well in bringing together various stakeholders such as civil society groups, doctors and governmental agencies," said Dr Chaturvedi.
Around 52 head and neck cancer societies as well as 55 countries support the decision of the International Federation of Head and Neck Oncologic Societies to observe the day.
Health experts said that the ban on tobacco products have worked. A survey conducted in 2014 by the John Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and the World Health Organization, India, found that 90% of the respondents desired that the government should ban the manufacturing, sale and distribution of other forms of smokeless tobacco.
"Around 92% supported the ban and 80% believed a ban will motivate them to quit, nearly half of them actually tried quitting,'' said the survey.
Strong government action such as bans would help prevent head and neck cancer, said doctors.