Head and neck cancers make up almost 30% of all cancer cases in India, raising concerns about tobacco use

India is facing a major challenge with head and neck cancer cases, which make up the majority of global incidents. Especially vulnerable are underprivileged groups, such as workers and laborers, due to widespread tobacco use. The importance of preventive programs for early disease detection was highlighted at the 22nd annual RGCON 2024, hosted by the Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre (RGCIRC) under the theme ‘Head and Neck Cancer: Bridging the Gap from Cure to Survivorship’.

“Head and neck cancers account for almost 30% of all cancer cases in India, with projections showing a staggering 50% increase by 2040,” said Rakesh Chopra, Chairman of RGCIRC, during his address. “With 60% of labor class individuals consuming tobacco, they are the most vulnerable. Preventive measures are essential, and early detection is crucial, as 80% of cancers are curable in the early stages,” Chopra added.

D. S. Negi, CEO of RGCIRC, emphasized the role of technology in diagnostics, pointing out the transformative impact of AI. “AI algorithms can quickly identify cancer patterns, improving diagnostic accuracy and reducing turnaround time. This innovation holds promise in early disease detection and better patient outcomes,” he noted.

RGCON 2024 brought together over 250 faculty and 1,000 delegates globally to discuss advancements in cancer treatment. Dr. (Prof) Sudhir Kumar Rawal, Medical Director and Chief of Genito Uro – Oncology Services at RGCIRC, highlighted the conference’s role in fostering research and innovation. “As an academic institution, RGCIRC places strong emphasis on research activities. RGCON serves as a platform to witness and adopt new trends in cancer treatment,” he explained.

Prof. Alok Thakar, Director of the National Cancer Institute & Director of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology at AIIMS, Delhi, praised RGCIRC’s contributions, describing it as a beacon in cancer care. “This institution founded by social activists has set a commendable precedent in cancer treatment,” he remarked.

Dr. Mudit Agarwal, Unit Head & Senior Consultant of Head & Neck Oncology at RGCIRC and Organizing Secretary of RGCON 2024, expressed gratitude to the global medical fraternity for their participation. “This year’s conference facilitated collaboration among experts from various fields, promising advancements in patient care,” he affirmed.

Dr. A. K. Dewan, Director of Surgical Oncology at RGCIRC, described head and neck cancer as a significant issue for Asia, particularly due to smokeless tobacco and smoking. He highlighted that less than 30% of patients undergo surgery, as the focus is on multi-modal treatment.

RGCON 2024 featured sessions on advanced treatment modalities such as proton therapy and Brachytherapy, along with discussions on integrating AI in cancer care. Innovations like the Indian Surgical Robot, SSI Mantra, were showcased alongside talks on cost-effective reconstruction methods and facial reanimation techniques.

The organizing team of RGCON 2024 included Dr. Mudit Agarwal, Dr. Munish Gairola, Dr. Sumit Goyal, Dr. Rajat Saha, Dr. Sunil Pasricha, and Dr. Vikas Arora.

Established in 1996, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre (RGCIRC) is among Asia’s premier cancer centers, offering cutting-edge technology and renowned super specialists. With a track record of serving over 3.5 lakh patients, RGCIRC provides advanced techniques such as robotic surgery, Cyber Knife, Tomotherapy, and True Beam. The institute has been consistently ranked among India’s best oncology hospitals and is the only one in India to have three surgical robots for cancer surgery.

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