Karnataka government’s door-to-door cancer screening initiative in 8 districts puts spotlight on early detection

Individuals in Karnataka will undergo assessments for oral, breast, and cervical cancer as part of this groundbreaking campaign.

ByChetana Belagere

Published Jan 28, 2024 | 11:00 AMUpdatedJan 28, 2024 | 11:00 AM

Dinesh Gundu Rao at Fortis Cancer Summit held in Bengaluru. (Supplied)

The Karnataka government is gearing up to commence a proactive health screening initiative in eight districts, targeting the early detection of lung and breast cancers. This progressive endeavour, integral to the “Gruha Arogya” scheme, entails a comprehensive approach involving door-to-door screenings for non-communicable diseases.

Individuals in Karnataka will undergo assessments for oral, breast, and cervical cancer as part of this groundbreaking campaign.

Set to kick off in the first week of February — as confirmed to South First by Dr Srinivas Gulur, Joint Director of Non-Communicable Diseases at the Department of Health and Family Welfare, Karnataka — this initiative is generously funded by the National Health Mission.

Task forces, comprising community health officers, ASHA workers, and primary healthcare personnel will conduct household-level screenings, promote health awareness, and offer medications free of charge for all non-communicable diseases.

Also Read: This scientific duo is revolutionising early cancer detection — and how!

Cancer detection is key

Speaking at the Fortis Cancer Summit in Bengaluru, held on Saturday, 27 January, Health Minister Dinesh Gundu Rao reiterated the government’s commitment to prioritising early diagnosis of cancer. He said that through this, the state aims to significantly improve treatment outcomes and enhance the quality of life for individuals affected by cancer, showcasing a forward-thinking stance in healthcare management.

Fortis Cancer Summit held in Bengaluru.

Fortis Cancer Summit held in Bengaluru on Saturday. (Supplied)

During his address, Gundu Rao acknowledged the pervasive anxiety surrounding the term “cancer” and underscored the adverse impact of late detection. He stressed the pivotal role of early screening, urging additional support from the private sector and technological innovators to detect cancer at its nascent stages.

Despite the availability of screening camps for oral, cervical, and breast cancer, Gundu Rao noted a prevalent public reluctance driven by fear and denial. He highlighted government initiatives, including the collaboration with AstraZeneca to incorporate AI in lung X-ray scans, aiming to bolster early detection rates and ultimately save lives.

At the summit, Gundu Rao advocated for the inclusion of the HPV vaccine in the regular vaccine package as a preventative measure against cervical cancer. He emphasised the potential to eradicate the disease through vaccination coupled with early detection.

Reflecting on personal loss and the evolving landscape of cancer treatment over the past three decades, Gundu Rao acknowledged significant progress in the precision and affordability of cancer care in India.

The Fortis Cancer Summit, held in Bengaluru, brought together a gathering of over 800 specialists and faculty members, featuring more than 250 experts specialising in various oncological disciplines. Discussions centred around the latest advancements in diagnostic tools and therapeutic oncology innovations.

Also Read: Cancer Task Force in Karnataka to combat sharp increase in number of cases

Focus on detecting lung cancer

Underlining the government’s focus on detecting lung cancer, Karnataka has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with AstraZeneca Pharma India Ltd. This collaboration aims to deploy AI-based lung cancer screening technology developed by Qure.ai, capable of screening patients for 29 lung diseases, including lung cancer, using a single chest X-ray.

This initiative represents a significant step forward in the early detection and diagnosis of lung cancer in Karnataka, leveraging advanced AI technology to improve healthcare outcomes. Gundu Rao explained, “This technology will automatically screen all lung X-rays for cancer. This will make detecting cancer easy.”

Gundu Rao emphasised on the need for discussion and advancements around technology to detect cancer in early stages. Noting that prevention and detection is the key, he said that the doctors present at the summit should put their minds together to come up with innovative technology to screen cancer at a cheaper cost.

“Understanding its rise due to changing lifestyles affecting even the youth, we, as a government, emphasise early detection. Cancer takes a toll on individuals and families, prompting our focus on support, screening, and utilising new technologies. Overcoming stigma in rural areas is a challenge, but advancements like AI can contribute to early detection solutions. Every life saved matters. I am urging stakeholders to unite in harnessing AI and technology for early detection, a crucial step in addressing various cancers beyond our current scope,” he said.

Also Read: Karnataka joins hands with AstraZeneca to deploy AI-based lung cancer screening technology

Door-to-door screening

Speaking to South First, Dr Srinivas Gulur said that the first round of door-to-door visits for blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer screenings will be implemented in Ramanagara, Tumakuru, Belagavi, Gadag, Ballari, Yadgiri, Dakshina Kannada, and Mysuru districts.

Health staff will visit 20 houses three days a week — Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Each visited house will be marked with a colour-coded health sticker. The health status of the individuals will be recorded using the NCD app by the Community Health Officer.

Medications for hypertension, diabetes, and other non-communicable diseases will be supplied free of cost by health officials, further emphasising the government’s commitment to holistic health initiatives. Dr Gulur affirmed that a detailed project report has been submitted and the implementation is scheduled for the first week of February.