BY JYOTHSNA HEGDE
Atlanta, GA: No child who walks in with a cancer diagnosis is sent untreated at Sri Shankara Cancer Hospital, irrespective of whether they can pay or not. And we pride in providing affordable care to all patients,” said Dr. Srinath B.S, Managing trustee and Chief Oncologist of Sri Shankara Cancer Foundation (SSCF) in his exclusive interview with NRI Pulse.
Dr. Srinath was in Atlanta to raise cancer awareness and raise funds for SSCF to enable free cancer treatment to kids whose families are unable to afford it. He presided as the chief guest at NKK Deepavali and Rajyotsava celebrations on November 9th and a Meet and Greet fundraiser event in Roswell organized by Ajay Madwesh on November 10, 2019. The fundraiser in California raised 168K for the cause.
“Through US donations of $525,000 raised since 2014, SSCF has treated 127 patients, free of cost, and 35,000 in all. Apart from providing treatment, deserving families are offered free medicines and free food is handed to over 100 patients each day.” Said Soma Shekar, Board member, SSCFUSA.
“Cancer should be prevented when possible. Establishing and maintaining a cancer hospital is very expensive. The specialized equipment, medicine and treatment rendering is expensive, and outcomes are unpredictable. Hence prevention needs focused attention,” urged Dr. Srinath.
69 and raring to go, Dr. Srinath showed no signs of fatigue having landed in California from India days before his Atlanta visit. Along with performing nearly 18-20 surgeries a week, the assiduous doctor finds time to keep abreast of news updates, including a political scenario he shared that I was unaware of! An avid reader and scholar par excellence, Dr. Srinath says he drew inspiration for the formation of SSCF to help poor patients from a book he read. “I was very much inspired by C.K. Prahlad’s The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, that discussed new business models targeted at providing goods and services to the poorest people in the world.”
Operational since 2012, SSCF was founded with the sole purpose of helping cancer patients receive optimal treatment at affordable cost. Recognized as a leading tertiary cancer hospital, SSCF provides state-of-the-art equitable treatment to all cancer patients including free treatment to the poorest.
The nine-storied SSCF facility in Bangalore is well equipped with 300 beds, staff of 600 which includes 70 doctors who have treated 35,000 patients since 2012, 8 operation theaters where close to 300 surgeries are performed per month, Two mobile cancer units to work in rural areas, furnished with – Ultrasound, X-ray and dental chair, Mammography & Ultrasound, 4 doctors, 2 clinical psychologists and 22 assistants. The facility also houses a post-graduate library, auditoria, conference hall on its academic floor. Post-graduate training program leading to postgraduate degrees will be setup along with domiciliary patient treatment and nursing care expected to commence soon.
“Breast and Lung cancers in adults are most prevalent in Bangalore,” noted Dr. Srinath, adding that most cancers are preventable and mostly caused due to lifestyle, environmental and food choices. “Use of tobacco, alcohol, consumption of unhygienic and unbalanced food lacking in vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin C, A, Magnesium, to name a few, that are vital to the body, and lack of exercise are some of key contributing factors to cancer,” stated Dr. Srinath. “Environmental factors residual pesticides, which absorbed by the roots, thus being present within the fruits and vegetables, industrial waste, lead and arsenic contents, HIV and HPV are also add to the risk.
“Approximately 70% of the population live in rural areas far away from medical help.
Patients do not seek treatment until late stages. Number of government-owned cancer facilities are very few and private cancer hospitals clustered in the major cities,” said Dr. Srinath, addressing cancer care challenges in India.
“SSCF has dedicated wings and a comprehensive approach to address various aspects of cancer including research, prevention, awareness, palliative care, pain management, patient caregivers support groups for breast, ostomy, pediatric and, gynecological cancers, bereavement counselling and even holistic care including yoga, meditation, psychological counselling, art therapy and music therapy, all of which are available to patients at affordable pricing and free for the economically backward,” elaborated Dr. Srinath.
The mobile unit travels deep into the villages screening patients, raising awareness and offering free treatment to the poor.
India ranks 3rd in cancer cases after China and the US and is the second most common cause of death in India. India accounts for 20% of childhood cancers in the world. Pediatric cancers constitute around 2-4% of all cancer diagnosis in India. It is estimated that about 50,000 children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 years will be diagnosed with cancer each year, in India.
“The causes of most childhood cancers are not very clear. In children, like those in adults, cancers are thought to develop as a result of mutations in genes that lead to uncontrolled cell growth and eventually cancer,” said Dr. Srinath.
“Leukemia is the most common cancer seen in Indian children, along with brain tumors, sarcomas and lymphomas. We at SSCF are treating leukemia, lymphomas and sarcomas,” said Dr. Srinath.
“This time we are seeking funds to treatment of pediatric cancer patients, especially since it is highly curable when detected early and most deserving. It is very fulfilling to see a child cured of the ailment and grow up to be a healthy person. It is our goal at SSCF to treat all childhood cancers free of cost, “pledged Dr. Srinath.
Towards that goal, SSCF facility has an exclusive 60-bedded Pediatric Cancer Centre with provision for individualized care and facility for every child, a first effort of its kind in the country. The comprehensive plan includes free long stay facilities, temporary employment for parents, free nutritional diet and financial support, family counselling and after care treatment.
“Our goals for 2020 include a paediatric Long Stay, construction of 2 more floors at SSCHRC, a bone Marrow Transplant Centre and a 3rd Linear Arc.” Stated Dr. Srinath
The daily increase in number of patients and referrals from even neighboring state of Andhra Pradesh stands testimony to the state-of-the-art facility that provides quality treatment at affordable pricing, apart from the free treatment. Making no difference in the treatment course of free or paid treatment, SSCF has set an intriguing blueprint that serves the all economical strata of society with equal dignity.
“I am an enabler, not a businessman,” said the earnest doctor. Humble to a fault, and humanitarian at heart, he even offered to carry a meal replacement drink for my mom, who is a recovering cancer patient. Leading by example, Dr. Srinath has set up a patient-oriented model that works best for patients, care-givers, doctors and the establishment itself. We can only hope many will follow this notable lead.
You may check http://sscfusa.org/ for details.