He strongly believes that timely diagnosis of the patient and awareness in the patient can help the patient lead a near normal life. He laments the lack of foresight in the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh government’s scheme of Rajeev Arogya Shree (which has now been renamed to YSR Arogya Bharosa in Andhra and Aarogya shree in Telangana) as it does not include diagnosis, at the same time pointing out that our villages or even district hospitals do not have any facilities to diagnose cancer at all. Thus, he along with some like minded cancer survivors or their close ones have come together to create awareness amongst children and youth, especially children and youngsters on the risk of cervical and breast cancer. They also spread awareness about oral cancer caused by excess tobacco usage.
Swastava Cancer Care was registered as a society in 2017. It has essentially divided their mission into 2 major objectives at present:
- Create awareness amongst youngsters in their formative years about the ill effects of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs, specifically the oral cancer it can cause.
- Cater to the health of the girls and women of the family as they are vital.This flagship program is called “REACH THEM YOUNG”.They do this through:
- separate awareness sessions for girls in their formative years about a) physical hygiene, b)menstrual hygiene, c)dangers of Human papillomavirus (HPV) and the need to get vaccination to prevent cervical cancer.
- conducting screening camps for women to screen them for any kind of cancer.
Dr Vasudev and his team visit at least 10-15 schools every month. He says, “I start by sharing my story and ask them if they can believe that I am a cancer survivor. They are usually awestruck and say that I am lying. I openly share my story inductively and then ease them into the session.”
The awareness camps for youngsters first happen for all the students from the classes 8, 9 and 10. Then later girls are segregated and told about physical, menstrual and sexual hygiene. They are also told about HPV* and vaccination against it which can cause cervical cancer. All the children are made to take a pledge to safeguard themselves against the use of tobacco, alcohol, drugs and to do everything possible to stay healthy.
Apart from this, girls usually write a letter to the Prime minister requesting him to lower the cost of cervical cancer vaccination from Rs. 6000/- to safeguard against cervical cancer. 10,000 such letters have been written and more are written during the awareness camps, hoping someday someone might take note of these letters. They give the children brochures which they can refer to, from time to time.
While they face considerable challenges in raising money for these camps, the biggest problem they face is to fight the fear and taboo amongst women. In many cases when an attempt is being made to take pap smears* from the cervix of women, they panic and either refuse or get violent in some cases, after having consented to the procedure.
(* Pap smear, also called a Pap test, is a procedure to test for cervical cancer in women. A Pap smear involves collecting cells from your cervix — the lower, narrow end of your uterus that’s at the top of your vagina. Detecting cervical cancer early with a Pap smear gives you a greater chance at a cure. :
In spite of that, they have thus far conducted awareness camps for over 15,000 youth which includes NCC cadets, school children and students in particular. They have also conducted awareness camps and screening camps in 11 villages impacting 550 women.
Cost of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis is extremely prohibitive and thus it is the state’s responsibility to help its citizens get a health care plan that can help get diagnostic tests and subsequent treatment (at least subsidising to an extent). Just as the government has done massive awareness programs for polio vaccines, it should do awareness drives for vaccination against the HPV virus which can prevent cervical cancer in women.
We can do our best by telling our female friends, relatives, family members to get vaccination against HPV and to get annual checks periodically. We can also educate our domestic helpers as well. A lady’s health is very important for the wellbeing of the family. It’s important cannot be underscored enough.
This mission by Swastava Cancer Care to begin their work by focussing on a girl and a woman’s health highlights the sensitive and crucial mission this non profit has taken up. Wishing them the best in their mission and hoping they reach a massive scale which get’s the government to respond adequately as well.