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Covid: Amrita Hospital witnessing a 20% rise in Lung Cancer Incidence Featured

Published in Health Tuesday, 10 August 2021 19:39


50% of them in advanced stages

~Around 70% of these did not visit a hospital despite having active symptoms such as cough and mild breathing issues ~

Kochi :A shocking trend that doctors at Amrita Hospital have recently identified is a whopping 20% rise in the number of lung cancer patients reporting at the hospital as compared to the pre-COVID lockdown period. Of these, 50% have reached advanced stages as they ignored the symptoms. Around 70% of these did not visit a hospital despite having active symptoms such as cough and mild breathing issues.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths globally. According to WHO, lung cancer accounts for a staggering 2.9 million average deaths annually. According to the National Cancer Registry of India, 27 per cent of the lung cancer cases had tobacco consumption as the main cause. Lung cancer spreads to other parts of the body through the lymph nodes which can result in tumour formation. Staying away from smoking and having a regular exercise routine, can go a long way in preventing lung cancer. Some common symptoms of lung cancer include cough, chest pain, fever, weakness, fatigue, blood in sputum, malaise, appetite loss and weight loss.

Commenting on disturbing rise in incidence of lung cancer in Kerala, post the Covid lockdown, Dr. Tinku Joseph K, Chief of Interventional Pulmonology, Department of Pulmonary Medicine, Amrita Hospitals, Kochisaid,“Lung cancer detection rates had significantly reduced during the lockdown period, but once the restrictions got lifted, we observed a substantial surge in the number of patients visiting our OPDs with advanced stages of lung cancer. Of all the lung cancer patients who came to us, 70% said they had active symptoms like cough and mild breathing difficulty, but they were reluctant to visit hospitals, due to the fear of getting COVID infection. Hence, we are seeing a 20 per cent rise in the number of lung cancer patients now as compared to pre lockdown period of which 50% have reached advanced stages.”

Talking about treatment protocols, Dr Joseph K said, “Unfortunately,if cancer is diagnosed late, very little hope and treatment can be offered to patients. When cancer reaches advanced stages reversing it becomes increasingly difficult, and patients have no choice but to opt for palliative care (for pain relief rather than a curative approach of looking at the disease) or chemotherapy and radiotherapy.Smoking continues to be a major cause for lung cancer in our country. Other factors can include exposure to asbestos, arsenic, and uranium in the workplace or neighbourhood.”

In a bid to check the rising incidence of lung cancer in Kerala, Amrita Hospital, Kochi has launched a driveto raise awareness about the potential causes of lung cancer and the need for a timely diagnosis. As a part of this we have recently started a lung nodule clinic with the aim of detecting lung cancer at an early stage. People who are of the age between 50-80 years, active & passive smokers, exposure to asbestos, arsenic, petrochemical fumes and with family history of lung cancer should be screened on a mandatory basis. By this way we can detect lung cancer at an early stageand often a complete cure is possible. Various investigation modalities like a chest x-ray& low dose CT scans are used to screening. Once confirmed the lung nodule can be sampled using minimally invasive techniques like Radial EBUS guided cryobiopsies or a CT guided biopsy. The central/mediastinal lesions can be easily accessed using linear EBUS guided biopsies. Once diagnosed the further treatment process will be fast tracked by a point of an excellent team of Interventional Pulmonology, thoracic surgery, medical & radiation oncology.  

Post easing of Covid related restrictions, those who may be feeling any respiratory distress or lingering symptoms can attend the drive to understand if their condition could be potentially fatal.

Emphasizing the need for an efficient lung cancer screening program, Dr. Wesley M. Jose, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Medical Oncology and Hematology, Amrita Hospitals, Kochisaid, “Having an efficient lung cancer screening program in India is the need of the hour.The lack of a reliable lung cancer screening program made the situation even worse during COVIDwaves for lung cancer patients. With a significant number ofpeople in Indiabeing smokers, we feel there is a pressing need for a structured lung cancer screening program.

The Cancer Centre at Amrita Hospital is dedicated to providing fully integrated, multidisciplinary cancer treatment under one roof with state-of-the-art technology including prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, training & research.The latest and most advanced technologyprovides precision treatment minimising unwanted side effects usually associated with cancer treatment. All treatment modalities are offered under a single roof. Patients are seen and evaluated in multimodality clinics such as Head and Neck, Breast and Gynecology by a team of specialists in each malignancy. Treatment decisions are then made in multidisciplinary tumour boards where these specialists discuss the plan of treatment.

About Amrita Hospital

Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (Amrita Hospital), based in Kochi, is one of the premier hospitals in South Asia. Founded in 1998 by Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (known worldwide as AMMA), it offers a full range of primary and specialty care medical services. AMMA’s vision of providing advanced medical care to the poor and disadvantaged was the inspiration for Amrita Hospital, which today is a 1100-bed (490 units) tertiary referral and teaching hospital, serving more than 10 lakh outpatients and more than 70,000 inpatients annually.

The massive healthcare infrastructure with over 3.33 million sq.ft. of built-up area, spread over 125 acres of land, supports a daily patient volume of approximately 3500 outpatients with 95 percent inpatient occupancy. There are 12 superspeciality departments, 45 other departments, 4500 support staff and 670 faculty members. The hospital’s extensive infrastructure offers facilities comprising 28 modern operating theatres, 275 equipped intensive-care beds, a fully computerized and networked Hospital Information System (HIS), a fully digital radiology department, 17 NABL accredited clinical laboratories and 24/7 telemedicine service.

In 2015, South Asia's first ever Bilateral Hand Transplant Surgery was done at Amrita Hospital. The same year, Amrita Hospital won the British Medical Journal Award for the Best Surgical Team in South Asia. The Amrita team won the award for its two successful double hand transplants, the first and the second bilateral hand transplants in this region.

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