This article has been drafted to inform international patients about the latest cancer treatment technologies in India.
Over 10,000 people are diagnosed with one or the other type of cancer every year, the majority of whom are usually unable to survive for more than a year. While most types of cancers are avoidable and can be prevented, some are diagnosed only after its initial stages. This has made it the leading cause of death worldwide.
Cancer treatment can stretch over a period of weeks that can suck all the savings of a middle-class man, which either leads them to delay the treatment or go forward with it at the cheapest available option without really concerning about the quality of treatment.
India has one of the biggest medical tourism market in the world, where international patients are able to receive affordable treatment without compromising with their quality of treatment. So, naturally is also targets cancer patients, with the availability of advanced technology and experienced staff here.
Here are some of the most advanced cancer treatment technologies that are currently available in India:
Proton Cancer Treatment
Available at: Apollo Hospital, Chennai
Proton Therapy (Proton Beam Therapy) is an advanced form of radiation therapy that uses protons instead of x-rays for treating cancer. A proton is an actively charged positive particle, whose high energy can be used for killing cancer. It can be performed alone or with a combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy or surgery.
Proton therapy is delivered using a machine called cyclotron or synchrotron that speeds up protons, to create a high energy, that can allow them to travel in any part of the body. These protons then target the tumour with the radiation dosage. It limits the flow of radiation outside the tumour, reducing the damage on the nearby organs and tissues. This speciality is currently only available at Apollo Hospital in Chennai in India.
CyberKnife is a non-surgical robotic radiosurgery technology that can be used for treating benign or malignant tumours. It can also be used for performing complicated neurosurgical cases while treating delicate functions like hearing and vision.
CyberKnife is usually available at most cancer hospitals in India. However, the experience of the oncologist performing the therapy varies across these hospitals.
IG-IMRT (Imaged Guided Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy) is the only integrated radiation system that can treat cancers that have spread deeply in the body. It is used for treating multiple metastases (Breast & Prostate Cancer), TBI (Total Body Irradiation) for complete bone marrow transplant and medulloblastoma (brain tumour) etc. Tomography HD uses small doses of radiation, mitigating its side-effects.
It is available at the majority of cancer hospitals in India including Medanta The Medicity, Fortis Hospital, Apollo Hospital, among several others.
Immunotherapy: Defense Mechanism System
Tumour cells can adapt to their surroundings and evade the detectors, immune cells. Immunotherapy is designed for training the patient’s immune system for fighting against cancer cells proactively instead of turning cancerous themselves.
Gene Therapy: Gene Mutation to help kill the disease internally
Gene therapy alters the cancer cells inside the patient’s body to help fight the disease. A patient’s gene comprises their DNA, a code which controls the function and the form of your body. Often these genes that start acting abnormally mutate to become cancerous. This therapy alters the functionality of these genes again to force them to attack the affected cells and tissues in the body by improving their fight ability.
Currently, gene therapy is available for clinic use only, and it is yet to be determined if it will be as effective for treating all types of cancers or not.
Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)
Photodynamic Therapy uses a combination of a drug (photosensitizer/ photosensitizing agent) with a unique light that is used for killing cancer cells. The cure rate for this therapy is almost 90%, after which 70% of patients experience vivid improvement in their condition. It can be performed within 48 to 72 hours. It is a highly safe treatment that has a no immunosuppression, negative impact or toxicity risks. It can also be delivered in combination with radiotherapy/ chemotherapy.
Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy
HIPEC (Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy) is delivered in the abdominal cavity in the form of the solution that contains chemotherapy, in which these drugs are heated at a higher level than the patient’s body temperature. This therapy helps expose cancer cells to excessive heat or sunlight. HIPEC is still a new method which is not available in most countries worldwide.
Indian Hospitals like BLK Cancer Center in Delhi and Max Healthcare Hospital provide HIPEC therapy for cancer with Cytoreductive surgery.
Detection of cancer in the initial stages can help in early treatment and also decrease the mortality rate. However, unfortunately, the lack of appropriate diagnosing methods and ineffective therapeutic cancer treatment has contributed to increasing the mortality rate. These synthetic drugs also have multiple side effects, and often cannot prevent redevelopment of cancer cells requiring an Innovative cancer treatment. By exploring their options, patients will be able to explore new options and get a better price for their treatment. Innovative cancer treatments in India and other affordable healthcare facilitating countries can help in decreasing the mortality rate.
The medical advancements of developing countries are turning out to be beneficial for international patients living in the USA and the UK as they are able to receive quality treatment with the best technology and doctors at one-third cost compared to their own nationality. The wide-spread wave of medical tourism has opened doors for patients to explore treatment options that can help them recover faster without experiencing any aggressive side-effects.