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The Union Cabinet has cleared a proposal to allocate Rs. 46,970 million towards strengthening cancer care facilities across the country over the next three years.

This is the first time the country has made such a large investment to tackle cancer. While the money will be spent at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels, the bulk of the investment would go into building care centres at the tertiary level.

Cancer is a major public health challenge and one of the leading causes of deaths in the country, Damodar Bachani, Deputy Commissioner (NCD), Union Ministry of Health, told The Hindu. There are an estimated 2.8 million cases; 1.1 million new cases per year and 0.5 million deaths annually. Only one in three cases of cancers is diagnosed early.

A total of 20 State Cancer Institutes (SCI) would be set up with an assistance of Rs. 1200 million each and 50 tertiary care cancer centres (TCC) with assistance of Rs. 450 million each during the next three years, Dr. Bachani said. These funds would go only towards infrastructure and equipment costs and the State would have to bear recurring expenditures. He was in Chennai to attend the Indo-UK Oncology Summit organised by the Indo British Health Initiative and British Deputy High Commission.

The SCIs would have 100 beds each and the TCCs 50 beds each. This would mean an additional 4500 beds would be made available for cancer care in the country within the next three years, Dr. Bachani said.

Currently, the Union government is supporting 27 regional cancer centres. NGOs are also eligible for support if recommended by their respective State governments. In order to arrive at a reliable statistics about the incidence and deaths due to cancer, it has been decided to expand and strengthen the cancer registries in the country at a cost of Rs. 423 million. At present, there are 29 registries, and most of them are hospital based, with only a few in rural areas.

Two new National Cancer Institutes (NCI) will be set up, one in the north and one in the south of the country, on an additional budget. “The actual centres would be decided shortly by the cabinet,” he said. Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had written to the Prime Minister recommending that the Adyar Cancer Institute, Chennai, be recognised as a NCI.

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