Beacon of hope

High-quality and affordable cancer care offered by SVICCAR, a Tata Trusts supported facility in Tirupati, enables patients to beat breast cancer

Shyla V (name changed) is from Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh. The mother of two was 50 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019. It all began when she observed a lump in her armpit near the left breast during a self-examination. Following a discussion with her family, Shyla was rushed to the nearest hospital. Diagnostic tests were carried out and a FNAC of the lump confirmed that she had Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC). IDC is one of the most common types of breast cancer – nearly 80% of breast cancer cases are IDC.

Team of volunteers, staffs and Doctors at SVICCAR's Health camp at Karveti Nagar, Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh

The reception area in SVICCAR

A doctor with her patient during a consultation hour

A doctor's diagnostic kit

Patients queued up for a check-up

Shyla was then shifted to yet another hospital for treatment, where she underwent lump removal surgery and two chemotherapy sessions. By this time, the family had spent a large amount of money and were struggling to continue the remaining treatment comprising six chemotherapy sessions, 17 antibody injections and five sessions of radiation therapy.

There are a limited number of cancer care facilities in Andhra Pradesh. Hence, most patients need to travel long distances for treatment, which often leads to high dropout rates. While the government infrastructure for cancer care treatment is inadequate, the average cost of treatment in private hospitals is very expensive – this can only be managed by a very small subset of patients.

Shyla’s family began exploring cost-effective but quality treatment options within the state. That’s when they were advised to visit the Sri Venkateswara Institute of Cancer Care and Advanced Research (SVICCAR) at Tirupati.

SVICCAR is a unit of the Alamelu Charitable Foundation, which is supported by the Tata Trusts. It is being developed into a 79-bed comprehensive cancer treatment centre which will provide services like cancer diagnostics, medical oncology, surgical oncology, radio therapy and nuclear medicine.

Day-care services were started at SVICCAR in January 2020. Medical oncology consultation, chemotherapy and select diagnostic services are being provided there. While the main unit is underway, the centre has a tie-up with select hospitals in Tirupati for all other cancer care services.

Shyla’s family was relieved upon reaching SVICCAR. They immediately felt at ease with the team of doctors, nurses and caretakers at the unit. Shyla has since undergone chemotherapy sessions, antibody injections and radiation therapy sessions at SVICCAR and allied hospitals.

“The treatment and care provided at SVICCAR has been parexcellence,” says Shyla. Since the cost of treatment was reasonable, the family was able to rent a place at Tirupati and complete her treatment without any financial difficulties or the stress of leaving the treatment mid-way. “It was an emotional moment for me when I was about to leave SVICCAR. I left with tears as I had become attached to the staff,” says Shyla. Back home in Kakinada, Shyla has commenced her normal life and visits SVICCAR at regular intervals for her follow-up tests.

When the centre becomes fully operational in early 2021, patients across the state will be able to access quality cancer care at affordable prices with no one having to leave their treatment mid-way.

This story first appeared on Tata Trusts