There is a double whammy for the cancer patients in the district. Not only the cancer patients are forced to move out of the district for treatment, there is scarcity of government-run laboratories to detect the dreaded disease. Under such conditions, patients are being fleeced by the private laboratory-owners.
The pathology laboratories of civil hospitals are ill-equipped to carry out even simple tests for detection and diagnosis of cancer, resulting in delay in the treatment of the disease most of the times.
No government-run laboratory has the facilities to carry out fluid cytology, fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) and tumor biopsies - three main tests to detect cancer at an initial stage. Even the doctors in the civil hospitals are dependent on private laboratories or on department of pathology at Government Rajindera College and Hospital in Patiala, for cancer investigation.
Though health department has no official record of total number of cancer patients in the district, but maximum number of cancer patients have been detected in the villages falling under the Moonak, Lehragaga, Sunam and Malerkotla sub-divisions. "We have ultrasound and CT scan facilities to detect cancer. We mainly send samples of solid tumors to the only laboratory in the district registered under National Cancer Registry Programme for further investigation", said civil surgeon Dr HS Bali.
"Though we have sufficient staff but are not equipped with the desired infrastructure and hi-tech equipment to carry out such tests in our hospital laboratories," he added.
On the other hand, private laboratories in the district are doing a brisk business and fleecing the patients. "We have our legmen in government hospital premises who keep on sending patients to us. Generally, we charge anywhere between Rs 500-1500 per test. But charges go up with the increase in size of tumor or biopsy," said owner of a private laboratory.
The patients coming from town's periphery have two options - either to approach a private laboratory or go all the way to Patiala. Avtar Singh, one of the patients diagnosed with cancer in his intestines, said he spent around Rs 5,000 on the tests, which were conducted at a private laboratory in Sangrur and than in Patiala.