Quality medical care was a distant dream for communities across central Kerala, let alone a specialized centre to deal with morbid ailments like cancer. Government hospitals' limited medical oncology treatments were no match for the growing cancer treatment needs. People had to wait for a long duration to receive proper treatment. Such dire conditions prompted the then Metropolitan Mar Kuriakose Kunnasserry, Archeparchy of Kottayam Diocese, to establish a full-fledged cancer hospital in Kerala.
The cancer centre was built within the Caritas Hospital Campus. It initially started functioning as a surgical oncology department in January 2000. Under Metropolitan Mar Kuriakose Kunnasserry, the then Director Rev. Fr. Simon Pazhukayil and Rev. Fr. Jacob Kollaparampil, the cancer centre was redesigned and relaunched as Caritas Cancer Institute on 24th February 2003.
The Caritas Cancer Hospital in Kerala is equipped with 40 beds which include a 20-bedded daycare chemo suite, surgical oncology theatre and ICU. Top-notch medical equipment that characterizes this cancer centre consists of varian unique performance Linear Accelerator and Selectron HDR for Brachytherapy and the soon-to-be-added Varian TrueBeam Linear Accelerator with image guided radiotheraphy, stereotactic radiosurgery and surface guided radiotherapy facilities
Adding new facilities such as the advanced blood separation and apheresis therapy, bone marrow transplant unit and transplant ICU and the Nuclear Medicine Department with PET-CT scan and radioiodine therapy, among others, have resulted in Caritas Cancer Institute emerging as the one-stop cancer diagnosis and treatment centre in Kerala.
Caritas Cancer Institute provides comprehensive oncology services, including diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care for all types of cancers and supportive care such as patient education and support for people diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses. The scope of treatments and procedures can be broadly divided into:
It is one of the oldest departments of this cancer hospital in Kerala. The medical oncology department comprises a team of highly specialized doctors, nurses and support staff who provide targeted and evidence-based diagnosis and treatment regimens to treat adult and pediatric malignancies.
The facilities and services provided at the medical oncology department include -
The radiation oncology department is tasked to dispense radiation practices that are strictly compliant with AERB (Atomic Energy Regulatory Board) guidelines. The department houses experienced and certified Radiation oncologists, physicists including radiation safety officer, nurses, radiation therapists and nutritionists.
Here’s a look at the facilities and services provided at the radiation oncology department:
This was the first specialized cancer department launched in the Caritas Hospital 22 years ago. The surgical oncology team has successfully conducted over 16,000 minor and major surgeries to date
Here’s looking at the facilities and services provided at the surgical oncology department:
World-class infrastructure characterise the nuclear medicine department, including a unique molecular imaging facility, PET-CT and gamma camera imaging, and a team of highly-experienced specialists. This department is known to provide personalised medical care by precisely understanding the molecular processes at the cellular level. It improves the diagnosis and treatment outcomes significantly. The department is among very few across Kerala to provide radionuclide therapy.
Enlisting below are the facilities and services provided at the nuclear medicine department:
The department comprises psycho-oncologists, psychiatrists and counsellors who provide the right kind of emotional support to both adults and children diagnosed with cancer. It helps the patient and their family cope with the emotional turmoil while fighting this disease. The experts ensure the utmost patient privacy during counselling.
Here’s the list of the facilities and services provided at the psycho-oncology department:
This department started functioning in 2004, catering to patients who could no longer respond to curative treatments. The services helped patients to manage their cancer-related pains and help in symptom management, thereby leading a comfortable life. The department also catered to patients suffering from incurable diseases like chronic rheumatoid arthritis, COPD, Stroke, Paraplegia, Spine Injury, Old Age, etc.
Here’s the list of the facilities and services provided at the pain and palliative care department:
The community oncology department aims to propagate awareness about types of cancers that can be cured if detected at early stages. The department team conducts mass education and cancer detection camps and distributes patient education and support to spread this awareness. Such awareness facilitates early and appropriate cancer screening and prevention.
Here’s looking at the facilities and services provided at the community oncology department:
The core components of a comprehensive cancer control programme are Cancer awareness, Cancer prevention, Cancer early detection , Cancer screening and early treatment.
Hospital Based Cancer Registry
Cancer registry is used to record information on the cancer patients visiting Caritas Hospital. This helps us to assess patient care, provide an idea of the patterns of cancer in the area and to participate in Clinical Research activities.
The department has been maintaining Hospital Based Cancer Registry (HBCRs) as per the standards and norms prescribed by the National Cancer Registry Programme (NCRP) - National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research (NCDIR) - Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Bengaluru since 2013.
There are only 4 hospitals in Kerala currently associated with National Cancer Registry and Caritas Hospital is one among them.
Intensive information, education and communication (IEC) activities are required to sensitize the community about the significance of the disease and its early detection through screening. Substantial efforts are still needed to dispel the myths, fears and gloom that tend to accompany any consideration of cancer.
The department organises various Cancer Awareness programmes in Kottayam and nearby districts to educate society about causes, risk factors , prevention and common symptoms of cancer and how to identify the symptoms early.
Early Cancer Detection
Cancer when identified early, is more likely to respond effective treatment, resulting in greater probability of surviving as well as less morbid and less expensive treatment. The establishment of an early diagnosis programme may be the most feasible strategy to reduce the proportion of patients presenting with late stage cancer and improve survival rates.
Early cancer detection can be achieved by sensitizing the community about the significance of the disease and its early detection through screening. Attendees of the awareness programmes are trained to look for the early symptoms and self examination techniques for oral and breast examinations. People with symptoms of Cancer are further followed up at Caritas Cancer Institute.
Cancer awareness is followed by Cancer Screening camps at the local communities for Oral , breast and Cervical cancer. Special focus is given to the underprivileged groups.
Anti-Tobacco campaigns are done at schools and colleges targeting young students from 5th standard about the harmful effects of Tobacco and Tobacco Cessation Counselling (TCC) is given for students who wants to quit tobacco.
Preventive Oncology Clinic at Caritas Cancer Institute is utilized by patient caregivers to get themselves checked for early cancer symptoms and to get further information on Cancer prevention.
Facilities Provided are :
Tobacco Cessation Clinic provides the following facilities for Tobacco users who wants to quit.
Kudumbashree is the poverty eradication and women empowerment programme implemented by the State Poverty Eradication Mission (SPEM) of the Government of Kerala. Caritas Cancer Institute along with Kudumbashree will be launching a Comprehensive Breast Cancer control programme through Kudumbashree workers.
Cervical Cancer is caused by Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and HPV is transmitted sexually. Hence sex workers are at high risk to develop this cancer. This programme includes cervical cancer awareness followed by cervical cancer screening among sex workers to identify the women at risk for cancer and prevent the precancerous lesions if detected from developing into invasive cancer.
There are around 2.5 million migrant labourers from other states (interstate migrants) working in Kerala. In terms of health care utilization, Interstate Migrant workers form a marginalized community . However use of different forms of Tobacco and associated Oral Pre-cancer lesions are very prevalent among migration workers . This is mainly due to lack of awareness , inability to access health care and language barrier.
This programme aims to educate migrant workers about the harmful side effects of tobacco and assist them in quitting tobacco. Also prevalence of Oral Pre-cancer will be evaluated and those with lesions will be given further assistance and treatment to reduce the lesions.