To support underprivileged cancer patients in India, Bengaluru based Sri Shankara Cancer Foundation, USA hosted its first fundraising banquet last month that helped raise over $168,000.
Attended by over 150 people, The Sri Shankara Cancer Hospital and Research Center (SSCHRC), a non-profit hospital and research center was established in 2012 by Dr. B.S. Srinath, who returned to India after earning FRCS (Edinburgh & Glasgow UK) and has surgical oncology experience of over 35 years.
“The proceeds raised from the banquet would enable free treatment for 31 patients,” Anuradha Jagadeesh, board member of the foundation told indica. However, in 2019 in total the foundation has raised $285,000 that would support 59 cancer patients, and since 2014 the amount raised has reached over $650,000 and in total it has supported 159 underprivileged cancer patients.
Jagadeesh, who is known for Sevathon, India Community Center signature event, and also supports several non-profits in the Bay Area, said she first came to know about the hospital in 2009 when she visited India.
They were operating in a wing of another hospital called, Rangadore Memorial hospital, in Bengaluru, India, where she met with Dr. Srinath.
“He was very passionate about starting an exclusive cancer treatment center which would provide quality medical treatment for those who could not afford treatment,” Jagadeesh said and added that he was earnestly looking to get support in his effort. “Dr. Srinath is super qualified with multiple FRCS, a very spiritual person and very hands-on. He is himself works in the operating room from 8 am till almost 6:00 pm.”
Motivated by his work and dedication and concerned about the way the number of cancer patients is gowning in India, she said, “My concern is with the growing use of chemicals, pesticides and plastic there is great exposure.”
“A significant percentage of the population of 200 million who are living in poverty in India cannot afford the expensive treatments,” she said, “The foundation offers quality, low-cost affordable care which is accessible to one and all.”
“Currently [cancer] is a disease which only the wealthy can afford [to treat],” said Jagadeesh, however she believes that there should be an effort to educate and, if possible, teach people about lifestyle changes to prevent cancer.
Sri Shankara Cancer Foundation USA, founder Soma Shekar on establishing the US chapter in 2010, told indica, “Cancer in India is becoming epidemic , for various reasons (1) not much awareness (2) Many are economically backward people with no means to get treatment.”
“Also we had cancer victims in our family and we have seen it first hand, imagining the plight of those economically backward patients we felt we have to do some thing to raise money here and help those patients in India,” Shekar said with a pause and added, “We also felt we should assist in any way we can to bring the awareness of cancer not just in India but also in USA.”
However he also believes awareness about Cancer is needed on why Cancer occur though genetic plays a role but it could be prevented through awareness.
“So my biggest concern is the awareness, we can raise money to help them as much as we can, but the bigger problem is awareness, stress, food habits and environment plays a big role which we can do something to prevent,” said Shekar.
Sri Shankara Cancer Hospital and Research Centre’s state-of-the-art facility includes 320 beds said Dr. Srinath. Every day 300 patients are treated, including about 100 chemotherapy patients and 400 outpatients.
“We are actually supporting the under-privilege people with no money [who] finds it hard to get the best treatment,” said Dr. Srinath. “Cancer is such a deadly disease.”
He said the hospital offers radiotherapy to patients and they also use radiodiagnosis, interventional radiology with big bore CT, digital MRI, diagnostic and therapeutic ultrasound, nuclear medicine, blood transfusion, and more.
“We know 70 percent [of our patients] live in rural India so most of the patients come from rural India,” he said.
The idea for the hospital was generated in 2010 but became operational in 2012 said Dr. Srinath. “We were running the hospital while we were still constructing it because we were dependent on donations.”
Dr. Srinath, who served for 11 years from 1992-2003 as the Managing Director of Bangalore Institute of Oncology, on starting his own cancer hospital said that after Bangalore Institute of Oncology, that collaborated with HealthCare Global Enterprises Ltd. Hospital Group ,he decided to start his own charitable hospital.
He said he was seeing a large number of cancer patients even before and his exposure from previous hospitals led him to believe that they are leaving out a large percentage of patients if they stuck to only a corporate environment hospital.
“We started with one machine and now we have two machines and 320 beds and 8 operations theaters, it did not come easily,” said Dr. Srinath. “We had to rely on donations from people and our own earnings and bank loans, we took Rs 54 crores ($7,560,000) and still have bank loans that we are paying back.”
To make the hospital run and serve the patients, the hospital also has for-profit and half subsidized fees. The money that are earned form paying patients and that goes into the poor patients, sometimes when the hospital generates more revenue they treat more patients for free.
Sharing his concern, Dr. Srinath said cancer is increasing and the challenges are many. Lung cancer in men and breast cancer in women are increasing and he says people have to change their lifestyle.
“If we want to reduce the incidence of cancer in India, we have to change the lifestyle,” he said. “The rise in breast cancer is because women are working in the office, they don’t breast feed for long and we are imitating whatever we had 30 years ago in the west we are having that in India now.”
“That reason for the rise in breast cancer here and in the rest of the word,” Dr.Srinath said.
Explaining further he said the breast cancer issue has been prominent for ages 60 years and above but in India, he sees has been in rise among women ages 45 and below. Now more young patients are getting cancer in India and cancer-related deaths are increasing.
“We are doing research into triple negative breast cancer and we are trying to find the answer,” said Dr. Srinath. “We started the research four years ago and 36 research projects are going on.”