Meghalaya Cancer Conclave 2024: Uniting Forces to Enhance Cancer Care

Mumbai, February 12, 2024: The Government of Meghalaya proudly convened the Meghalaya Cancer Conclave 2024. Spearheaded by Dr. Mazel Ampareen Lyngdoh, Hon’ble Minister of Health and Family Welfare, the two-day event commenced on February 12. Themed “Close the Care Gap,” the conclave aims to address critical issues surrounding cancer care and treatment within the region.

The Conclave has convened key stakeholders, including oncologists, cancer researchers, scholars, NGOs, industry leaders, top bureaucrats, and media representatives. Through diverse perspectives and expertise, participants engaged in meaningful discussions and collaborative efforts aimed at enhancing cancer care strategies in Meghalaya.

The conclave saw the participation of distinguished dignitaries, including Dr. Mazel Ampareen Lyngdoh, Hon’ble Minister of Health & Family Welfare, Shri. Sampath Kumar IAS, Principal Secretary, Department of Health & Family Welfare, Govt. of Meghalaya, Chairman – State Cancer Society of Meghalaya; Shri. Ram Kumar IAS, Secretary, Dept. of Health & Family Welfare, among others.

A highlight of the event is the spotlight on the Meghalaya Cancer Care initiative, also known as ‘Meg Can Care,’ launched on May 31, 2023. This initiative aims to tackle five specific cancers: Breast Cancer, Cervical Cancer, Esophageal Cancer, Lung Cancer, and Oral Cancer. To date, 46,713 beneficiaries have been screened, with 20,891 identified as at-risk beneficiaries. Additionally, the State Cancer Society has screened 1,392 beneficiaries, identifying 89 confirmed cases and 71 suspected cases within the state. This groundbreaking project underscores the government’s commitment to promoting early detection and screening measures to ensure the well-being of the people of Meghalaya.

Speaking at the conclave, Smt. Mazel Ampareen Lyngdoh, Hon’ble Health Minister, emphasized the need for unity among stakeholders to effectively address the challenge of cancer. She stressed the importance of action over mere discussions, advocating for the extension of the Meghalaya Health Insurance Scheme (MHIS) to provide financial assistance to affected families.

Hon’ble Minister said, “I appeal to all stakeholders that unless we unite, this challenge will persistently confront us. We must stop discussions; we have to act. The Meghalaya Health Insurance Scheme (MHIS) must extend its reach to every affected family and individual grappling with cancer. Ensuring adequate funding is essential to provide financial assistance for cancer patients. We must streamline procedures and eliminate unnecessary formalities for all cancer patients. Prevention is paramount, and early detection is key to combating this dreadful disease. Every citizen of the state should be relieved of the burden of cancer care, and patients must feel secure during their treatment.”

Shri Sampath Kumar IAS, Principal Secretary, Department of Health & Family Welfare, lauded the Meghalaya Health Insurance Scheme’s contribution to universal health coverage. He added, “Meghalaya Health Insurance Scheme is one of the first, you know, insurance schemes, which aims to provide universal health coverage, UHC. I am telling you, not even big countries, like developed countries have not done universal health coverage, UHC. But Meghalaya aimed to do it. The beauty is that we aimed to do it. Statistically speaking, through the MHIS premium, State Government paid about 165 crores to the insurance company. And the claims are 200 crores. And almost close to 2 lakh households have taken MHIS. And the government spent about, you know, almost like close to 200 crores. So, that means each family would have taken almost Rs 10,000 as benefit from the insurance program, etc. Maternal deaths have come down by 50 percent in the last 3 years; it is the sharpest decline in any part of the world.”

Secretary of Health & FW, Ram Kumar S, IAS, outlined the comprehensive anti-tobacco program implemented by the government and emphasized the importance of grassroots-level engagement in promoting tobacco cessation and early detection initiatives.

A cancer survivor, Smti Yasmine Lyngdoh, who was diagnosed with cancer during her childhood, reflected on the need of taking the campaign to the rural areas. She said with hope, “I hope everybody will get proper treatment, because we all deserve it.”

A Young survivor during Covid was diagnosed with medulo blastoma, a tumor in the brain with the involvement of the spinal cord. His mother stated, “For parents like us, who had lost hope, to even see a future with our son, we are very happy now that our son is undergoing treatment. We were able to surpass the hardships, and we are very thankful to the doctors and nurses and the staff.

We should not be afraid from getting ourselves screened and undertaking the necessary treatments.”

Another cancer survivor, Smti Warimeki Lyngwa, shared her story and reflected on the importance of awareness on removing taboo on cancer. She said, “I think having this conclave will help people discuss about the issues that a lot of cancer patients are facing at grassroots level. I hope that this conclave will be very constructive.”

The Meghalaya Cancer Conclave 2024 served as a pivotal platform for exchanging ideas, sharing knowledge, and fostering partnerships aimed at improving cancer care accessibility and outcomes for communities across Meghalaya.

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