Is India a Safe Place for Cancer Treatment?

Increasing the number of cancer cases leads to the burden on the healthcare system worldwide. This life-threatening disease affected millions of people worldwide. One kind of cancer, leukemia, affects 25% of the people in India. 

Dealing with a leukemia diagnosis is an emotional and challenging journey, and understanding the associated costs of treatment is a vital aspect of this battle. In India, where healthcare is diverse and dynamic, patients and their families navigate a spectrum of expenses. 

In this blog, we will delve into the nuanced landscape of leukemia treatment costs in India.

What is Leukemia?

A type of cancer called leukemia attacks the bone marrow, which is where the body makes red blood cells. Usually, it is caused by an abnormal production of white blood cells that crowd out healthy cells and limit bone marrow’s capacity to create red blood cells. Leukemia can be acute (developing rapidly) or chronic (progressing more slowly).

There are four main types of leukemia:

  • Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL): A rapidly progressing leukemia that affects lymphoid cells.
  • Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL): A slow-progressing leukemia that affects mature lymphocytes.
  • Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML): A rapidly progressing leukemia that affects myeloid cells.
  • Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML): A slower-progressing leukemia that primarily affects myeloid cells.

There are various traditional treatments available for curing leukemia. Some of the treatments are:

  • Chemotherapy: The use of drugs to kill or control leukemia cells. Chemotherapy can be given in cycles and can be taken orally or intravenously.
  • Radiation Therapy: In this treatment, high-energy rays target and kill leukemia cells. It is often used in specific cases, such as before a stem cell transplant.
  • Targeted Therapy: Medications that specifically target specific molecules involved in the growth of cancer cells. This approach aims to minimize damage to normal cells, resulting in fewer side effects.
  • Immunotherapy: Boosting the body’s immune system to recognize and destroy leukemia cells. CAR-T cell therapy is an example of a patient’s T cells being genetically modified to target cancer cells more effectively.
  • Biological Therapy: Also known as immunomodulatory therapy, this treatment uses substances that stimulate the body’s immune system to fight leukemia cells.

However, the treatment choice depends on factors like the type of leukemia, its stage, the patient’s overall health, and individual preferences. To achieve maximum success, a combination of these treatments is frequently used. A multidisciplinary team of medical specialists, including hematologists, oncologists, and others, creates treatment programs to offer complete care customized to each patient’s unique condition. To control any possible adverse effects and track the response to treatment, routine monitoring, and follow-up care are essential.

One of the renowned and experienced Medical Oncologists, Dr. Radheshyam Naik, has more than 25 years of experience dealing with various types of cancers. He has received international training in advanced cancer therapy and has made major contributions to the development of bone marrow transplantation and hematology.

Dr. Radheshyam was also the first medical oncologist who did the first intra-arterial chemotherapy and Bone Marrow Transplantation in Karnataka.

What is the Advancement in Treatment of Leukemia?

Advancements in the treatment of leukemia have grown remarkably, offering new hope and improved outcomes for patients. Here are some notable advancements:

  • Targeted Therapies: Targeted therapies focus on specific molecules involved in the growth of cancer cells. Drugs like imatinib and dasatinib have shown efficacy in treating certain types of leukemia with fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapy.
  • Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy harnesses the body’s immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. CAR-T cell therapy, a form of immunotherapy, has shown promising results in treating specific types of leukemia by genetically modifying a patient’s T cells to target cancer cells more effectively.
  • Precision Medicine: Precision medicine involves tailoring treatment based on the individual characteristics of a patient’s cancer. Genetic profiling helps identify specific mutations, allowing oncologists to choose targeted therapies most likely adequate for that particular patient.
  • Minimal Residual Disease (MRD) Monitoring: MRD monitoring involves detecting small amounts of leukemia cells that may remain after treatment. Highly sensitive tests allow for better monitoring of response to treatment, enabling doctors to adjust therapies as needed to prevent relapse.
  • Combination Therapies: Oncologists are increasingly exploring combination therapies, where different drugs or treatment modalities are used simultaneously or sequentially. This approach aims to target leukemia cells through multiple mechanisms, potentially increasing treatment effectiveness.
  • Advancements in Diagnosis: Improved diagnostic tools, such as advanced imaging techniques and molecular testing, allow for more accurate and timely identification of leukemia subtypes. This precision in diagnosis guides oncologists in selecting the most appropriate and effective treatment strategies.
  • Clinical Trials and Research: Ongoing clinical trials and research initiatives continue to explore novel treatments and therapeutic approaches. Dr. Radheshyam is also a pioneering oncologist who has conducted various Drug trials of over 50 chemotherapy drugs trials nationally and internationally. 

These advancements collectively represent a paradigm shift in leukemia treatment, moving towards more targeted, personalized, and effective approaches. As research and clinical trials continue to progress, the landscape of leukemia treatment is likely to witness further innovations and improvements.

What is the Average Cost of Leukemia Treatment in India?

The availability of qualitative comprehensive care in India makes it the best place for the treatment of cancer. One of the prime concerns of the patients is leukemia treatment costs in India. However, there are various factors on which the cost of the leukemia treatment depends. Some of the factors are:

  • Hospital Services and Location: The hospital location or services decide the overall cost. Private hospitals may charge higher prices for the treatment as compared to government hospitals.
  • Doctor’s fees: Experienced and specialized surgeons charge a higher fee for the consultation and treatment of various types of cancers.
  • Standard tests and diagnostic procedures: The journey commences with diagnostics, including blood tests, bone marrow biopsy, and imaging studies. Diagnostic costs can vary based on the facility, location, and the specific tests required.
  • Type of surgery performed: The cost also depends on the types of surgery required. Traditional surgery prices are lower than advanced procedures like robotic surgery, minimally invasive surgery, etc.
  • Cost of Radiation /Chemotherapy: Radiation and chemotherapy treatment requires numerous cycles. The number of sessions or cycles required also affects the overall cost.
  • The price of the needed post-procedure care: Post-procedure care, like physiotherapy, counseling, pain management, etc., also decides the overall cost of the treatment.

Based on the above factors, the average cost of leukemia in India ranges from Rs. 38,000 INR ($500) to Rs. 22 lakh INR ($29,000), which is much lower than in many developed countries like the USA.

Understanding leukemia treatment costs in India requires a multifaceted approach. From grasping the intricacies of medical expenses to exploring insurance coverage, government support, and potential medical tourism options, informed decision-making is vital.

Effective communication with healthcare providers about financial concerns enables the development of a tailored financial plan that helps patients and their families focus on the most crucial aspect of the journey toward recovery.

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