Bringing Cancer Care To The Deprived
Kolhapur Cancer Centre offers personalised treatment for all kinds of cancer to the rural populace, who do not have easy access to comprehensive, quality cancer careBy Aatika H Jain
Did you know there is a ‘Pawar Technique’ of surgery for oesophageal cancer, which is accepted worldwide and is approved by the American Board of Surgeons as part of its teaching curriculum? The technique was invented by Dr Suraj Pawar, founder and chief surgical oncologist of Kolhapur Cancer Centre (KCC), Kolhapur, Maharashtra. Dr Pawar always wished to work with disadvantaged cancer patients in rural areas where medical services were not easily accessible. “There was an acute need of a comprehensive cancer centre in Kolhapur and its vicinity,” says Dr Pawar, who set up KCC after completing his training from Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre, USA. “The main purpose of starting KCC was to provide quality cancer care to all, especially to the poor and needy patients who could not afford treatment.” Starting off modestly as a 15-bed surgical oncology hospital in 2001, KCC moved to a brand-new 3-acre campus 10 years later, adding on state-of-the-art radiation therapy and medical oncology departments. From the small yet dedicated staff of 35, KCC grew to an industrious family of 250, and continues to grow. The institute now has a team of 12 expert oncologists and four fellows. In the last 10 years, KCC has successfully transformed into a tertiary cancer centre, and has two branches in the city.
“KCC receives 6,000 new cases per year, mainly from south Maharashtra, north Karnataka, the Konkan region and Goa. Over 1,500 patients receive radiation therapy annually and over 1,500 onco surgeries of all types are performed annually at the centre,” says Dr Reshma S Pawar, Executive Director at KCC and gynaecological oncologist. “The centre specialises in minimally invasive surgery and is credited with developing the innovative Pawar Technique— thoracoscopic oesophagectomy in semi-prone position. This technique is accredited by the American Board of Surgeons as a teaching video with CME credit points.” KCC offers all aspects of cancer care, comprising diagnosis, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery and patient rehabilitation. The centre has seen more than 7,000 successful surgeries so far; Dr Pawar has conducted more than 5,000 of these. “When I was admitted to Kolhapur Cancer Centre, I was terrified of undergoing an operation, depressed and without hope of recovery at this age. But I was overwhelmed by the human touch, assurance, concern and kind words. The experience, expertise knowledge and quality infrastructure helped me regain my confidence and health,” says a 78-yearold cancer survivor. The diagnosis and treatment of cancer has a serious psychological impact not only on patients but also on the patient’s family. KCC has established a dedicated psycho-oncology department, thus becoming one of the few cancer centres in India that has integrated psychological support for patients and their family into routine treatment. It offers routine screening of chemotherapy patients for anxiety and depression, diagnosis and management of psychological issues in patients referred from other departments of the centre, sleep problems and pain management to improve patients’ quality of life, substance withdrawal management for de-addiction and pharmacotherapy for psychiatric issues.
Giving back to society
KCC supports a number of NGOs, including Avani Sanstha, which works for orphans and the destitute, Ekati Sanstha, which works to reinstate women rag-pickers and single destitute women, and the Chattrapati Shahu Cancer Research Foundation, which works to facilitate treatment for poor cancer patients and also create awareness. The centre also conducts regular cancer awareness programmes in villages, schools and colleges spreading awareness about cancer prevention and early detection. “KCC is implementing a programme with the zilla parishad under the ‘Innovative Programme’ category wherein a door-to-door survey regarding cancer is being done with the help of ASHA workers with the purpose of screening, early detection and creating awareness,” says Dr Pawar. Adds Dr Reshma: “An upcoming hospice project of KCC, Saanjvaat, aims to take care of terminally ill patients and giving them life with dignity in their last moments. This is being planned as a special project which will create positive energy and moments of happiness for the patients while they are on the last leg of their life journey.”
KCC plans to start similar comprehensive cancer centres in tier 2 and tier 3 cities, where such services are lacking, besides increasing its current bed strength from 75 to 250. “In the near future, we plan to add one more linear accelerator unit, a bone marrow transplant unit, and a robotic surgery department and start DNB courses in oncology,” says Dr Pawar
“THERE WAS AN ACUTE NEED FOR A COMPREHENSIVE CANCER CENTRE IN KOLHAPUR AND ITS VICINITY. THE MAIN PURPOSE OF STARTING THE KOLHAPUR CANCER CENTRE WAS TO PROVIDE QUALITY CANCER CARE TO ALL, ESPECIALLY THE POOR AND NEEDY PATIENTS WHO COULD NOT AFFORD TREATMENT.”Dr Suraj Pawar, Founder and chief surgical oncologist of Kolhapur Cancer Centre, Kolhapur, Maharashtra