Public Information Systems and Alternative Therapeutic Approaches for Cancer in India
Background: Early detection can decrease incidences of mortality related to cancer in India. Primary tests at detection centres (generally established in urban areas and mobile facilities), need to be followed by specialized cancer centric tests. This leaves a gap for discontinuation of diagnostic process. Other factors like the prevalence of Complimentary and Alternate medicine systems (CAM), availability of mainstream healthcare services, cultural and social beliefs need to be understood for new formats for diagnosis and treatment to be devised for minimizing delay in cancer diagnosis.
Objective: This study was conducted in order:
i. To understand role of various extrinsic factors in the development of cancer diagnostics and reason for adoption of CAM treatment strategies. And,
ii. To develop a holistic understanding of these factors and their role in influencing delay in diagnosis of cancer in the Indian population.
Methods: Through comprehensive analysis from a systems point of view, problems with systemic, economical, technological and socio-cultural factors emerged as reasons for slow development in the fight against cancer. Existing diagnostic and awareness dissemination networks are also analyzed for their strengths and weaknesses. Case studies on problems in early detection of cancer have pinned cognitive barriers like attitude, social practices and information to be the primary cause for low detection rates and high mortality. Interestingly, many studies point at “people’s attitude towards the disease” as a major bottleneck in adoption of mainstream medicine treatment.
Results: This paper presents a review of multiple studies about factors influencing cancer diagnostics and treatment in India. Incorporating these factors, some postulates of a nascent model for development and recalibration of cancer diagnostic network are proposed. Cancer diagnostics involves tackling preconceived notions about cancer, challenging established sociocultural systems and reshaping social practices and people’s lifestyle. Public outreach programs (like camps, community events, ASHA workers and celebrity brand ambassadors) can be effective in changing attitudes in rural areas.
Conclusions: CAM therapies are a group of traditional and modern medical practices that offer a pantheon of opportunities, however they can be dangerous to patients’ health if not used wisely. We support the suggestions made by other authors that an approach in integrative oncology may be effective for utilizing best of mainstream and complementary cancer treatment practices.
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