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Rising HPV-related head and neck cancers among Indian men: A trend fuelled by low awareness, risky behaviours

May 27,2024

Mumbai: Dr Nancy Y Lee, MD, FASTRO, Radiation Oncologist and Early Drug Development Specialist, Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Centre, interacted with ETHealthworld’s Prabhat Prakash on the rising burden of head and neck cancer cases in India, the role of HPV vaccination in HNC prevention and how low-dose radiation is demonstrating encouraging outcomes with a lower dose. Edited Excerpts:

The uptick in HPV-related cancers, particularly impacting men’s head and neck areas, is quite a concern, alongside its better-known link to cervical cancer in women. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show around 25,000 cases of HPV-associated cancers in women and 19,000 in men between 2013 and 2017. Notably, more than four out of every ten cases of HPV-related cancer occur in men. Looking ahead, the projections are equally alarming. According to GLOBOCAN 2020, India is expected to see a staggering 57.5 per cent increase in new cancer cases by 2040, totalling 2.1 million cases.

Factors contributing to this surge include a lack of awareness and screening, leading to delayed diagnosis and treatment. Multiple sexual partners and oral sex contribute to the rise of this cancer. Additionally, tobacco and alcohol consumption, prevalent among Indian men, interact with HPV infection, further increasing cancer risk. Furthermore, limited HPV vaccination coverage, especially among boys and young men, perpetuates HPV transmission.

In India, one in 33 males and one in 107 females are at risk of developing HNC. Every step of cancer care has hurdles, right from diagnosis to follow-up. There is an increased diagnostic delay in these patients among the Indian population, either due to limited access to healthcare, a lack of understanding of the gravity of the situation, or financial constraints.

According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), over 60 per cent of HNC cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage, primarily due to the absence of widespread screening programmes and low awareness levels. Tobacco and alcohol consumption, prevalent cultural practices, are significant risk factors; the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that nearly one-third of all cancer-related deaths in India are attributed to tobacco use. Furthermore, a study published in the Indian Journal of Cancer highlighted the disparities in healthcare infrastructure, with rural areas facing a shortage of trained medical professionals and diagnostic facilities.

IFHNOS has revolutionised head and neck cancer care on a global scale, uniting experts from 70 countries to share cutting-edge research, techniques, and best practices. One of the key ways in which IFHNOS has made an impact is through its international conferences, workshops, and educational programmes. These events provide a platform for experts from diverse backgrounds to share their insights, discuss challenges, and explore solutions in the diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of head and neck cancer patients.

In a recent collaboration with MSK and its Chennai centre, IFHNOS introduced a HNC summit. Additionally, MSK offers a Head and Neck Oncology Fellowship accredited by IFHNOS, showcasing its dedication to excellence in head and neck cancer care.

We’re observing a notable shift in HNC care, moving away from traditional invasive procedures toward more precise and patient-friendly approaches. Techniques like microsurgery and minimally invasive procedures such as transoral laser and robotic surgery are preserving vital functions and enhancing outcomes. Advanced radiation therapies like proton beam and intensity-modulated radiation therapy deliver targeted treatment, minimising collateral damage. Immunotherapy is also revolutionising cancer care by leveraging the body’s immune system to combat tumours, while genomic testing allows for personalised treatment plans, optimising efficacy. Furthermore, participation in clinical trials provides access to cutting-edge therapies, offering hope for patients.

Looking forward, these advancements will continue to redefine the head and neck cancer care landscape, emphasising personalised treatment and improved quality of life for patients.

Source: Healthwolrd

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