SRINAGAR — Despite the increasing number of cancer cases in Kashmir Valley, there is a severe shortage of PET-CT scan machines for staging and assessing treatment responses. With only one such machine available at SKIMS Soura, patients at GMC Srinagar face several challenges in accessing timely and accurate cancer diagnostics.

GMC Srinagar, where around 7,000 new cancer cases were registered, is functioning without a PET Scan machine that is used for the detection of cancer and the evaluation of cancer treatment.

Oncologists informed the news agency KNO that in the modern-day practice of oncology, PET-CT has emerged as a game-changer in the management of cancer but the valley has just a single such machine.

Dr Shabnam, an oncologist, said there is just one PET Scan machine available at SKIMS Soura and there is a need for more such machines in the valley.

Another oncologist, Dr Aijaz, said PET Scan constitutes a major advancement in the initial diagnosis, evaluation, treatment, prognosis, surveillance, and relapse throughout the disease.

PET-CT is an acronym for Positron Emission Tomography – Computed Tomography, which is nuclear medicine equipment that houses a PET scanner and a CT scanner, to acquire multiple sequential views to create 3D images of the body. This modality provides a hybrid image formed by the fusion of the functional image of PET and the anatomical image of CT.

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Doctors said there is an immediate need for such a facility at GMC Srinagar as cancer cases in Kashmir are on the rise and such patients have no options other than to visit SKIMS Soura.

They said patients have to wait for a long time to get their turn, which isn’t easy for such patients while some are visiting outside Kashmir for diagnosis and treatment.

The medical experts said the majority of the patients cannot afford to visit private clinics or outside the valley, thereby delaying their diagnosis and treatment, which is very essential for the treatment of cancer.

“PET-CT is helping doctors to work out the best treatment and helps to detect primary sites, thereby influencing the choice of chemotherapy,” they said, adding, “It would be in the interest of the community as well as for better healthcare facilities if the PET Scan facility will be made available at SMHS Hospital.”

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As per the details available, around 45,000 new cancer cases have been registered at SKIMS Soura since 2013, while around 7,000 cancer cases have been registered at GMC Srinagar since 2017.

According to the Union Health Ministry data, 51,577 cases of cancer were reported in J&K in the last four years (2019-2022) with 12,396 in 2019, 12,726 cases in 2020, 13,060 cases in 2021, and 13,395 cases in 2022.

A total of 35,623 people in J&K died with cancer between the years 2018 and 2022 that is 6824 cancer patients were reported to have died in 2018; in 2019, 7003 deaths were reported; in 2020, 7189 deaths were reported; in 2021, 7211 deaths were reported; and in 2022, 7396 cancer patient fatalities were reported.

A 2012 study by the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) attributed the rising cancer incidence to “dietary practices and lifestyle choices” as well as the intake of foods with high salt content.

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