In a survey conducted by the health department, Patiala district is ranked fourth as far as the number of suspected cancer patients is concerned.
Amritsar, Jalandhar and Sangrur districts are ahead of Patiala on this count. Patiala ranks even ahead of Bathinda, till now considered the most cancer-affected district.
According to the survey, Patiala has 6,936 suspected patients whereas Bathinda has 3,612.
According to the 2011 census, Patiala district's population stands at 18,92,282, as compared to Bathinda's 13,88,859.
In 2008-09, a study conducted by Government Medical College, Patiala, had found the number of suspected cancer patients in the district to be 4,086.
As far as the confirmed cases of cancer patients undergoing treatment, Patiala has been found ahead of Sangrur that has a population of 16,54,408.
As many as 1,513 patients are undergoing treatment in Patiala, 1,484 in Sangrur and 1,627 in Bathinda.
Ludhiana district, considered more vulnerable to cancer, has 5,811 suspected patients.
Till now, only Bathinda, Mansa, Muktsar, Faridkot, Sangrur and Barnala districts were considered prone to cancer.
In Patiala, women have been found more prone to cancer with 57% of the total affected patients being women.
Patran sub-division has the maximum cases, a senior official said. "Like in Bathinda and Mansa, in Patran area, there are many houses where four to five members from a family have been detected," he said.
Like other parts in the state, breast and cervix cancer in women and oral and oesophageal cancer in men are most common in Patiala.
"It's not a startling revelation. Till now, the media's focus has been only on Bathinda, Mansa and Faridkot districts. As a cancer expert, I can say the disease has spread its base in the district," says Hanuman Prasad Yadav, head of the cancer department at Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, Faridkot.
Dr MS Bal, head of pathology department, Government Medical College, Patiala, says, "The reason why Patiala was not highlighted is because the media's focus was only on Bathinda, Mansa and Faridkot. Moreover, this is perhaps the first survey being done door-to-door and is more authentic."
Uranium, pesticides the cause?
The preliminary reports of the survey have triggered the debate: whether the presence of uranium in parts of Malwa region or the high use of pesticides are the main causes of cancer.
The survey has found that cancer has gripped the entire state. Districts like Amritsar, Jalandhar, Gurdaspur and Rupnagar, the areas where the use of pesticide is lower as compared to the cancer-vulnerable parts of Malwa and where the content of uranium is less, have been equally hit.
"Nobody can say categorically that the presence of uranium and high use of pesticides are the prime reasons for cancer. Different studies have failed to establish this. Experts say cancer is not restricted only to Punjab but has gripped the entire country," says Dr Harjot Kaur Bagga, head of the radiology department, Government Medical College, Patiala.