Abdul Rehman, a skinny old man from a village in Ganderbal, is waiting outside the radiation therapy ward of SKIMS Soura for his turn to be seen by the doctors. Rehman is continuously struggling to take a sip from his water bottle, meanwhile, his wife Shahzada is helping him in holding the bottle. Rehman was a chain smoker and now he is struggling with food pipe cancer and has already received 20 radiation therapies in Skims.
One evening in the summer of 2016, Rehman was having dinner with his family when he suddenly choked on his food.┬á Unable to eat properly for several days, he couldnÔÇÖt swallow anything without pain in his throat. His family showed him to a local doctor who immediately referred him to the tertiary care hospital, SKIMS, Soura. After undergoing a few tests and multiple scans, the doctors had shocking news for his family. He had developed cancer in his food pipe. The chances of his survival are bleak; the doctors had told his distraught family.
Initially, Rehman, a driver by profession, was unaware of his fatal illness. But he eventually came to know about it while undergoing treatment. The cancer had now spread to his lungs. Four consecutive cycles of chemotherapy treatment, stretching over a painful period of three years, has considerably weakened Rehman. HeÔÇÖs lost some weight and appears listless. The knowledge of his fatal disease has also psychologically affected him, necessitating psychiatric treatment, which is required to reduce the associated stress. His treatment has proved to be costly for the family. Financially exhausted, his family is thankful that heÔÇÖs survived till now. TheyÔÇÖre hoping for a miracle now. But doctors say such cancer patients cannot survive beyond a few years.
ÔÇ£I have sold my jewellery and assets and had borrowed money from relatives for my husbandÔÇÖs treatment. We have spent about 4-5 lakh on his treatment till now since he was diagnosed with the disease in 2016,ÔÇØ says his wife Shahzada, whoÔÇÖs accompanying his husband for another round of checkup in the Radiation Oncology department of SKIMS. ÔÇ£Despite spending all this money, he has not recovered and cancer remains where it was, I┬á am waiting for some miracle, I am waiting for a day when I will have real Rehman back.ÔÇØ She further says
The radiation therapy ward of Regional Cancer Centre (RCC), SKIMS remains busy, swarmed by a constant rush of cancer patients and their attendants coming from the remote corners of north, south and central Kashmir. Having come from all across the valley for treatment, many cancer patients are anxiously waiting to get their test reports. Carrying several medical reports and MRI scans, they wait for their turn to receive another round of radiation therapy. What takes attention is that majority of cancer patients who come for treatment are usually poor and belong to lower income group. It is really heart wrenching to see small kids, accompanied by their anxious parents for treatment.
In another nearby corridor, Niyaz Ahmad a labourer from Kunzer area of Tangmarg district is accompanying his mother for treatment.┬á She has moved around in a wheelchair. She was diagnosed with stomach cancer more than a year ago.
ÔÇ£It was a deep shock for a whole family when we came to know about her cancer. Till now she has received 20 therapies in one month,ÔÇØ says his son. ÔÇ£The doctors asked us to prepare her for operation but she is already a heart patient and cannot withstand an operation.ÔÇØ
Ahmad says he knows about seven people in his village alone who are all cancer patients. Only one of them survived, he said, the rest died after battling with the disease within a short span of few years.
The rise in cases :
According to the official data recorded in SKIMS, there is 87% rise in cancer cases in J&K from past 7 years. In 2017 the number of cases was recorded as 5731 which is 87% higher than the cases recorded 7 years ago when 3057 cases were witnessed.
Causes of Cancer:
- Street and Junk food can lead to stomach and liver cancer.
- Alcohol and Smoking can lead to throat and Lung Cancer.
- Late marriage can lead to breast cancer in Female.
- Exposure to pesticides can lead to Brain cancer.
- Non-vegetarian diet (Red Meat) can lead to colorectal cancer.
Latest data reveals that in SKIMS alone the highest numbers of cancer patients have been registered from district Srinagar.
Between Jan to June 2016, over 1500 cancer patients from Srinagar alone were registered for treatment in RCC, SKIMS. District Anantnag stood at number two, with over 760 cancer patients registered for the first six months of 2016, followed by Baramulla, with over 720 cancer patients registered with the Centre from this district till June 2016. This is for the first time that in just over six months that such an increased number of cancer cases have been registered at RCC, SKIMS.
Cancer Society of Kashmir, which has financially benefited over 26000 patients till now, providing them free diagnostic facilities and anti-cancer drugs,┬á till 2011 had just over 200 cancer patients registered for free treatment from all across Kashmir. But since 2011, thereÔÇÖs been an exponential rise in the number of cancer patients registered with the society. Majority of these cancer cases come from the lower income group. Since 2011, over 26000 cancer patient visits have been registered with the Cancer Society for treatment.
Dr M. Maqbool Lone, Professor and Head of Radiation Oncology, SKIMS says that in past years pattern cancer which was observed in Kashmir was somehow different from other countries but now the same type of cancers are prevalent in the states because of changes in dietary habits and overall sedentary lifestyle of people in the valley,ÔÇØ says Dr Lone, adding that in males lung cancer has become the number one cancer in Kashmir and in females breast cancer is the number one cancer.
ÔÇ£ The more westernized our lifestyle is getting the most possibility of these diseases are,ÔÇØ he adds.