Cancer Treatment In India
Cancer is a group of diseases that are characterized by the growth of abnormal cells that divide uncontrollably. These cells can invade and destroy healthy cells in the body and normal body tissue. Cancers can spread through the body as well, through a process called metastasis. Most cancers cause tumors. But this doesn’t mean that all tumors are cancerous.
Most cancers are treatable and also preventable. More people who are diagnosed with cancers today are living longer, because of improvements in treatment.
In India, there are a number of affordable cancer treatment facilities where you can receive the treatment you need to manage the disease. There has been a significant advance in cancer medical research. New medicines, cures, techniques, and better medical infrastructure have made cancer treatment accessible to more and more people. Cancer survivors and those who are managing the disease are able to enjoy a better quality of life.
With a little research and planning, you can plan your treatment program in India depending on the type of cancer.
What are types of cancer?
The major types of cancers are carcinoma, melanoma, sarcoma, leukemia, and lymphoma.
Carcinomas are the most commonly diagnozed cancers. These cancers originate in the breasts, lungs, skin, pancreas and other glands and organs.
Melanomas originate in the pigment-related cells in the skin.
Sarcomas are cancers that originate in muscle, bone, cartilage, fat, blood vessels and other connective or soft tissues of the body. These types of cancers are relatively rare.
Leukemia is cancer in the blood. Leukemia usually doesn’t involve solid tumors.
Lymphomas are cancers of lymphocytes or the white blood cells that have an important role to play in the body’s immune system.
How to Diagnosis Cancer?
The earlier that cancer is detected and treated, the higher the chances of survival and cure. There are some types of cancers that can be detected early by self-exam or other screening measures before the condition gets too serious. These include cancers of the mouth, breast, skin, prostate, and rectum. If you discover a tumor after self-examination, you can go in for other types of screening and diagnosis methods to detect whether or not it is cancerous.
Sometimes, you may not be able to find a tumor. However, you may develop certain symptoms associated with cancer. Some signs that, although not specific to cancer, may raise a red flag include:
- sudden loss or gain of weight
- changes in skin color, such as redness, darkening or yellowing of the skin, sores that are impossible to heal, etc.
- Changes in bladder habits or bowel habits
- difficulty in swallowing
- persistent cough
- persistent indigestion
- persistent muscle or joint pain that cannot be explained
- persistent night sweats or unexplained fevers
It is important to see a doctor if you see one or more of these symptoms or signs. Delay in cancer diagnosis can significantly slow down the success of treatments. The diagnosis of cancer will begin with a thorough medical exam. Your doctor will also ask to see your complete medical history.
Often, lab tests of urine, blood, and stool can detect abnormalities that may indicate cancers. Your doctor will then prescribe some other tests to find out more about your condition.
Some of the common methods of cancer diagnosis in India are explained below.
PET or positron emission tomography is a follow-up test once the cancer is confirmed to be present. Your doctor can use this test to find out where biopsy needs to be done. The PET scan can also be used to find out if cancer has spread. This process is called staging. It is also often used to find out if the cancer treatment is working, and how well it is working.
A PET scan creates pictures of the tissues and organs in your body. A technician will inject you with a small amount of a mildly radioactive substance. Your tissues and organs will pick up this substance. The more active and energetic cells will pick up more of it. Cancer cells tend to use a lot more energy than healthy cells. Thus they pick up more of this tracer substance.
Often, the PET scan is used in combination with a CT scan. PET scans are usually conducted at an imaging center or in the radiology department of a hospital that is equipped with nuclear medicine facility.
A CT scan or Computerized tomography scan takes a series of X-ray images around the body. These images are taken at different angles. They are then combined by a computer and processed to create cross-sectional images of the soft tissues, blood vessels, and bones in your body. Any abnormal tumors show up on these images. CT scans are able to provide more information to your doctor than traditional X-rays. Sometimes, a contrast medium, which is a special dye, may be used to provide greater detail on the CT scan images.
When used in combination with a PET scan, a CT scan provides a clear picture of the position and scale of your cancer. CT scans are often recommended to see if a cancer treatment is working or to look for signs that cancer has recurred.
The amount of radiation used in a CT scan is minimal. However, if your doctor recommends several CT scans and you are concerned about the cumulative impact of the radiation on your body, you can speak to your healthcare team. Find out if the CT scan is the best way to get the information the team needs or if other alternatives are possible.
In order to confirm cancer, your doctor will perform a biopsy. Other tests may suggest cancer. But only a biopsy can make a cancer diagnosis. Your doctor will remove a tissue sample from the suspected tumor and study it under a microscope. During the biopsy, your doctor will look for cancer cells in the tissue.
The biopsy may take place in your doctor’s office. Sometimes, the doctor may use surgery or some other procedure to get a tissue sample. There are different types of biopsies possible, depending on the location of your tumor.
So the most commonly question asked is What are types or biopsy?
- Image-guided biopsy: If the cancer is located deep inside your body and your doctor cannot feel a tumor, she may use an imaging technique to guide a needle to the location of the tumor. This imaging technique may use ultrasound, X-ray, CT scan, MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging) or fluoroscopy to guide the needle to the site of cancer.
- Fine needle biopsy: Your doctor may use a hollow, thin needle attached to a syringe to collect a small tissue sample from the suspected area. The procedure is minimally invasive.
- Core needle biopsy: If your doctor needs more tissue for a diagnosis, she may remove a larger sample of tissue using a larger needle. The core needle biopsy is also minimally invasive.
- Vacuum-assisted biopsy: Your doctor may use a suction device to collect a tissue sample using a special needle. This test is usually done in the outpatient department of a hospital and is common in breast cancer diagnosis. It is not usually painful and is performed under local anesthesia.
- Excisional biopsy: If there are suspicious changes on your skin or a suspicious lump under the skin, your doctor may remove the entire suspicious area for tests.
- Shave biopsy: Your doctor may remove a small tissue sample from the surface of the skin.
- Punch biopsy: Sometimes, your doctor may prefer to ‘punch’ a sample of tissue from below the skin surface using a circular tool.
- Laparoscopic biopsy: To see abnormal tissues in the abdomen, your doctor may insert a thin tube with a video camera at its mouth through a small incision. He may then remove a small sample using a fine needle.
- Endoscopic biopsy: Similar to a laparoscopic biopsy, your doctor may use a thin endoscope tube through your mouth or through a tiny incision. This type of biopsy is used for areas in the bladder, joints, GI tract, and abdomen. A small sample of tissue may be removed using forceps that are a part of the endoscope.
- Bone marrow biopsy and aspiration: To take solid and liquid samples of suspicious bone marrow, your doctor may use two needles for biopsy and aspiration. These two procedures are often performed at the same time.
- Liquid biopsy: Liquid biopsy usually tests your blood for cancers. A routine blood test will be analyzed in a special way for diagnosis or to check the progress of a tumor or the success of treatment. Liquid biopsy is relatively new and not widely used for cancers yet.
After your doctor takes a sample of tissue, she sends it to a histology technician for study at the microscopic level. A complete pathology report is necessary for a precise diagnosis of cancer. Your doctor will decide on the best treatment method for you based on this accurate pathology report.
The pathologist looking at the sample will determine the type of cancer and what stage it is at. There are specialized tests and state of the art equipment to analyze tissue samples. The technician then works with your doctor, surgeon and health care team to decide on the best cancer treatment options for you.
If cancer runs in your family, you should consider a gene test to estimate your chances of developing cancer in your lifetime. Most cancers are not related to mutations at the genetic level. But specific changes in chromosomes, genes or proteins may help predict your risks for a number of cancers including the breast, ovaries, colon, thyroid, prostate, pancreas, kidney, stomach, sarcomas and melanomas.
Some rare cancers like ovarian cancer and sarcoma are linked to genetic mutations that you inherit from your family members. A gene test is recommended if you have three or more relatives on the same side of your family with similar forms of cancer. It is also recommended if you have two or more relatives that developed cancer at an early age.
What are options of cancer treatment in India?
Cancers diagnosed in the early stages (hyperplasia and dysplasia) have a higher chance of being cured completely. In India, survival rates for cancers of the breast, bladder, prostate, and kidney have gone up. Childhood leukemia now leaves 70 percent survivors. 80 percent of all stage 1 and stage 2 cancers are completely curable. Half of all cancer patients survive at least 10 years.
According to surgeons around the world, cancer treatment in India is at par with the rest of the world. New global drugs and treatments are launched in India within a space of at most three months. Many top surgeons and doctors abroad are Indian.
The affordable costs of cancer in the country also makes it an attractive destination for cancer treatments. On average, cancer treatments in India run between USD 5000 to USD 8000. The average cost of lung cancer treatments was INR 4.6 lakh in 2015. Breast cancer treatments typically run into USD 4000-5000. The treatment for cancers of the cervix and the colorectal region are around USD 5000-7000.
By contrast, a simple consultation and diagnosis in the United States can cost $5,000. However, the course of treatment and its costs will largely depend on the type and stage of cancer, as well as the type of treatment and hospital.
Here is a look at the success rates and treatments for different cancers in India.
The goal of surgery is to remove as much cancer as is possible. Many advancements and new technologies in surgery have made new methods available to surgeons for precise cancer removal.
Some of the cancer that require surgery includes but not limited to:
- Bone Cancer
- Brain Tumor
- Breast Cancer
- Cervical Cancer
- Esophageal Cancer
- Liver Cancer
- Lung Cancer
- Ovarian Cancer
- Prostate Cancer
- Stomach Cancer
- Pancreatic Cancer
- Oral Cancer
- Gallbladder Cancer
- Head & Neck Cancer
- Colon Cancer
- Uterine Cancer
- Kidney Cancer
Cost of cancer surgery in India ranges from USD 3000 to USD 9000 depending on type of cancer, extent of it’s spread and length of stay.
Bone Marrow Transplant
Bone Marrow Stem cell transplantation is highly effective for blood cancer. Cost varies depending on type of transplant i.e. autologous transplant or allogenic transplant or Haplo-identical transplant.
In India, Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) costs around USD 15000 – USD 35000, as compared with $250,000 in the United States.
Stem cell can be used for below mentioned conditions:
- Severe aplastic anemia
- Multiple myeloma
- Immune deficiency disorders
Chemotherapy is a powerful treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells and prevent them from multiplying. Chemotherapy treatments in India include traditional, cytotoxic and standard chemotherapy. Each 6-dose cycle can turn out to be between 500% to 700% cheaper in India than in the United States. Now in India prices of chemo drugs have been lowered as per govt. price control benefitting millions of patients. Some Chemo drugs price has been slashed by 80%, thus benefitting even the foreign patients coming to India.
Average cost of chemotherapy in India range between $500 and $3000.
Targeted radiation therapy using high-powered beams like X-rays is highly effective for common cancers like breast cancer, prostate cancer, head and neck cancer, eye cancer, kidney cancer, lung cancer, and bowel cancer. Radiation therapy treatments available include systematic radiation therapy (SRT), instaoperative radiation therapy (IORT) and radioimmunotherapy. The radiation can come from outside your body (external beam radiation) or from a device placed inside your body (brachytherapy.) The cost of these treatments depends on the number of cycles, although radiotherapy is one of the most expensive treatments for cancer.
Radiation therapy programs usually last 5 days a week for about 3 to 9 weeks. You will be given a break from treatment on weekends to reduce side effects and give healthy cells some time to heal.
Targeted treatments have a high success rate in many types of cancers. The cure rates of radiation therapy in prostate cancer, for instance, is 95.5% for intermediate-risk cancer and 91.3% for high-risk cancer. There is a 98.8% 5-year survival rate with this type of treatment.
Cost of radiation therapy in India at a private hospital may cost between USD 3200 to USD 7000.
HIPEC (hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy) treatment delivers heated chemotherapy drugs into the abdominal cavity to kill any cancerous cells that remain after surgery. This surgery is often combined with cytoreductive surgery, which involves removing tumors surgically. It is possible to completely cure as many as 25 to 30 percent of cancer patients with HIPEC.
Immediately after visible cancers are first removed surgically from the abdominal cavity, the cavity is washed with hot chemotherapy. These drugs are heated to 42 degrees to kill any cancer cells that remain in the body. The washing lasts for about 90 minutes. The drugs are then washed out and the incisions are closed.
There are several advantages of using HIPEC over traditional chemotherapy for abdominal cancers. HIPEC is a targeted solution that has fewer side effects. If you have early-stage cancer, you may need very small incisions with laparoscopic surgery for the HIPEC procedure. With HIPEC, the medicine penetrates deeper and is more effective.
HIPEC is also used for cancers of the appendix, colorectal regions, stomach, peritoneal cancer, ovarian cancer, mesothelioma, malignant ascites and other local cancers in the abdomen.
Cost of Hipec Surgery in India can vary from USD 9000 to 15000 on the kind of cancer and length of stay in hospital post surgery.
Robotic Surgery for Prostate
Robotic prostatectomy is a minimally invasive surgery for the removal of prostate cancers. The surgeon controls the robotic arms and instruments attached to these arms. The robotic arm lends precision. It can be used to treat low-risk prostate patients with a high success rate. Immediate risk patients may also be prescribed this surgery, but the surgeon may choose to opt for radiotherapy and hormonal therapy instead.
Cost of Robotic Surgery for prostate in India is USD 8000.
Cyberknife surgery is a robotic radiosurgery system that has revolutionized cancer treatment around the world. The non-invasive treatment uses high doses of radiation with high accuracy, to treat tumors in the brain, prostate, pancreas, lungs, and liver. It’s a kind of focused radiation therapy, which does not need extensive session but only couple of session. The efficacy and prognosis is better compared to conventional radiation therapy. But not all cancers benefit from cyberknife radiation. Therefore accurate treatment planning ensures right patient selection and long term benefit.
Top hospitals in Indian metros offer cyberknife treatments for these cancers at a fraction of the cost compared to other countries.
Cost of Cyberknife in India ranges from USD 7000 to 12000 depending on the type of cancer.
India is one of sixteen countries in the world that offers proton therapy for cancer. Proton therapy uses pencil-beam technology for great precision in removing cancers of the brain, sarcomas, and solid cancers. It is also highly recommended for cancers in children. The effectiveness depends on the stage of cancer.
Cost of Proton therapy in India ranges between USD 40000 to USD 50000.
Cryotherapy uses extremely cold temperatures to treat tumors. Cancers of the liver, kidneys, prostate, and bone are usually most receptive to cryotherapy. It is also good for small tumors in the retina, early-stage skin cancers, precancerous skin growths, and precancerous cervical growths.
Cost of Cryotherapy in India ranges from USD 300 to USD 500 per dose.
Brachytherapy is a complex procedure through which a radioactive substance is placed on or near a tumor inside your body. The treatment can be used for a variety of cancers, including skin cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, head and neck cancer, lung cancer, rectal cancer, etc. Cost in India is lowest in the world compared to USA, UK, Singapore and even Thailand.
Costs of Brachytherapy in India ranges between $900 to $1500.
Gene therapy is a new and sophisticated cancer treatment available in India. It uses genes to treat illness, through various methods. It can involve inserting genes into cancer cells, for instance, to make them more susceptible to chemotherapy, hormonal therapy or radiation. Costs of gene therapy in India are significantly lower than other popular destinations for medical tourism.
Immunotherapy (especially for lung cancer)
Immunotherapy is one of the latest treatments used to help a patient’s immune system to fight and eliminate cancer. New antibodies are used to target immune pathways that cancer cells use to escape detection by immune cells. Lung cancers in particular, as well as kidney cancer, aggressive melanoma, urinary bladder cancer and a form of lymphoma benefit from immunotherapy treatments. In India, immunotherapy is lowest priced in the world.
Immunotherapy for Opdivo (Nivolumab) is lowest in India starting from USD 700.
Targeted drug treatment uses drugs to focus on some specific abnormalities in cancer cells that allow them to survive. Chronic blood cancer treatments using Imatinib, for instance, can help control the disease for much longer than chemotherapy.
Targeted therapy drugs can be expensive, but not more so than treatments in the US. In India, patients with chronic lymphatic leukemia with a 17p mutation will require treatment with Ibrutinib, which can cost USD 35000 for a year.
Cost of targeted therapy in India can range from USD 1500 to 3000 per cycle.
Conclusion about cancer treatment in India
India offers the latest treatments for cancers at a fraction of the cost of other countries. Consult with your doctor and find out the best treatment plans for you. We can help you plan your diagnosis, treatment, and recovery in India, and help you on your journey towards a new life after cancer.