In the mouth of madness

In the mouth of madness

Submitted by alvin on Tue, 2016-05-31 10:45 Bengaluru: The number of people suffering from oral cancer, especially in rural areas, has risen in the last two years, according to KIDWAI Institute of Oncology, which is looking at tobacco usage trends with the help of the central government.Gutka continues to be available in the state even though a ban is in place. And the toll is mounting each day.Haneef, 45, from Sedam in Kalaburgi is one of the victims. In stage 4 of the cancer, Haneef works as a labour in construction sites and has a family and father to look after. “I used to chew gutka for more than eight years now. I developed this habit by observing my friends,” says Haneef. Now the disease has become so chronic that one side of his face has been completely taken over by the disease.Another victim is 50-year-old farmer Venkatramappa. “I used to chew tobacco, beetle leaves and arecanut. Now it is so painful that I can’t eat anything as it produces a burning sensation,” he says.Then there is the story of eighteen-year-old Meera (name changed) who arrived at KIDWAI from Raichur last year for treatment. “She is suffering from oral submucous fibrosis,” says Dr Ramesh, Prof and Head, KIDWAI. “OSF is chronic than stage 4 of oral cancer. She was very young when she developed the habit. She cannot open her mouth now as it is painful. In such a case, patient dies due to hunger.”“Oral cancer is more found in people who smoke beedi, chew gutka, tobacco along with betel leaves. It is a common belief in people of rural areas that they can kill hunger by chewing tobacco or by smoking beedi. More than 80 percent of the oral cancer patients that we receive are from rural areas and around 60 percent are of last stage (4th stage),” says Ramesh.According to Ramesh, around 25 pc of women in rural areas suffer from oral cancer as they are given betel leaf, slaked lime and arecanut after delivery with a belief that slaked lime has calcium. Over a period of time, they also develop a habit of chewing tobacco along with betel leaf, thus leading to cancer.Chikkagangamma, 65, from Magadi came to KIDWAI when she was in the first stage of oral cancer. “I was given betel leaf and arecanut post-pregnancy and slowly developed the habit. I had developed a big lump inside my mouth. Doctors here operated me and removed the lump. But I can chew food only to the left side of the mouth,” she says. But Chikkagangamma’s plight has served as a warning to other members of the family, who have stopped chewing tobacco. “We register around 18,000 new cases every year and out of which 9,500 patients are confirmed of having cancer out of which 3000 are tobacco-related. Out of which more than 1000 cases are in the last stage,” says Venkatesh, Research Officer, KIDWAI.Dr Sabitha, Prof and Head of Department, says people in rural areas are unable to recognise the initial symptoms, leading to the cancer becoming chronic.According to the study conducted by Economic Survey of India, tobacco products generate a revenue of Rs8000 crore, while the money spent to treat tobacco-related diseases is more than Rs30,000 crore.“We receive 1200 to 1500 oral cancer patients every year. Only 400 to 450 are operated out of which 200 o 250 patients survive for minimum of five years,” says Dr Sabitha.And in more worrying news, a study conducted by AIIMS has found that the age of oral cancer patients has come down from 55 to 35. With World Anti-Tobacco Day falling on May 31, this is disturbing news. Number of new cases and patients operated upon in KIDWAIYear:          1990   2010   2016New cases: 700   1400    2000Operated:    175    340     400