Background: Early detection and awareness of cancer is pivotal for developing countries to improve the overall outcome. Cancer incidence and mortality is steadily increasing in India, with > 70% of the cases are diagnosed in advanced stages. Most common cancers oral, breast and cervical cancer, are detectable early via regular screening. Government programs for screening are not effective enough. Most cancer institutions are located in urban parts of the country and focused on treatment rather than screening and prevention. There is minimal focus to the rural areas. Frequent opportunistic screening is one effective way to intervene.
Methods: Cancer awareness and early detection camps were organised at three rural sites every four months. Specialist doctors and paramedical staff provided voluntary services. Two NGOs provided equipments and helped with advertisement. Thorough oral examination and on-site biopsy of suspicious lesions were done for all attendees. Thorough breast examination and pap smear were done for all female attendees. Females with suspicious breast exam, females over 50, previous history of breast cancer and family history of breast cancer had mammogram as well. Cancer awareness video clips and poster presentation was organised on site to educate rural population about risk factors and early signs of various cancers.
Results: Three camps done so far at three different rural sites. Total 640 people from the rural community attended the camps. Patients already diagnosed with cancer and currently under treatment were excluded from data collection. Total thirty six (5.6%) suspicious cases were identified and further follow up was arranged at low cost not-for-profit regional cancer centre. Twenty nine cases (4.5%) were found having confirmed malignancy in early stages. Eleven (37.9%) breast cancer cases, six (20.6%) cervical cancer cases, twelve (41.3%) oral cancer cases were diagnosed and treated. Two cases of advanced cancer were also diagnosed in the camp.
Conclusions: Opportunistic population based screening for oral, breast and cervical cancers is successful way of timely diagnosis and management. It can improve the overall outcome of cancer in developing countries. Future vision is to organise such camps every month at different clusters of villages and cover larger population. Same location should be repeated every two years.