New Delhi: Lack of awareness and a delay in diagnosis can prove costly for those suffering from thyroid cancer, a condition that has till date affected about 42 million people in India, according to medical experts.
Thyroid cancer proves a paradox to the medical fraternity because it is one of the deadliest yet most curable form of cancer in the world according to doctors.
"According to official statistics, the number of thyroid patients in India is one-tenth of 48,000 Americans who are suffering from thyroid cancer. So, we can officially put around 5000 to 6000 patients in India are suffering from thyroid cancer," says Dr C S Bal, Professor in Nuclear Medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Science.
Bal points out that this is simply the data that has been made available to doctors by government hospitals.
"The unaccounted number of patients who are being treated in private hospitals may be even more which puts the number at one to two cases per 10,000 Indians," says Bal.
Thyroid cancer starts in the thyroid gland that produces thyroid hormones which are important in the normal regulation of the metabolism of the body.
The exact cause of thyroid cancer remains unknown and the common symptoms include a lump or thyroid nodule in the neck, trouble with swallowing, throat or neck pain, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, persistent cough and vocal changes.
"Initially I saw small nodules in my neck and later when I was pregnant I went to the Amritsar Cancer Hospital to get it checked thoroughly where the doctor declared that I had thyroid cancer," says 40-year Kuldeep Kaur whose life was turned upside down after she discovered small nodules on her neck after she underwent surgery after a bike accident and was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
A delay in the investigation procedure proved detrimental for Kaur, mother to a young child who found that she was already in the second stage of the cancer.
"It was quite shocking for me. I did not want to go in for an operation as I was thinking about my child. For a year I opted for ayurvedic treatment which did not help me and the condition got worse.
Then I went to Delhi for my treatment," says Kaur. Radioactive Iodine therapy is a known treatment which has proved beneficial to treat Thyroid Cancer.
"Thyroid cancer detection test called `FNAC` is the easiest cancer test one can go through. At AIIMS this test will cost you only Rs 10 and the report will be given within an hour," points out Dr Bal.
Experts say the overall survival rate in differentiated thyroid cancer is much better that any other form of cancer.
"The rate at which thyroid cancer is increasing in the country we need awareness programs to help people come forward and get themselves checked. In 90 per cent of the case which we treat 40 per cent come at a lower stage of the cancer while 60 per cent come at the intermediate and the high risk stage which becomes difficult for us to treat," says Dr Bal.
"The government should organise more awareness programmes for thyroid cancer so that as soon as they feel they have a symptom they should get it checked at the nearest hospital," says Dr P S Choudhury, Director, Nuclear Medicine, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute.