Teenager launches site to provide second opinion to cancer patients
In 2015, Anisha Soin, then a class 11 student, came across a woman who was selling kitchen utensils to raise money for her grandson’s cancer treatment. A brief conversation with the woman informed her that the woman had also sold her house to sponsor his care and was selling utensils as she had nothing else left to sell. That one interaction changed Soin’s outlook towards life and made her desperate to help those in need.
After a brief stint with a healthcare-based crowdfunding platform, Anisha realised that medical procedures for complex conditions, such as cancer, require second opinions that most people refrained from investing in either due to lack of resources or simply the willingness to opt for further consultation.
“This realization led to the launch of a website that offers individuals free second opinion on their potential cancer treatments from a panel of renowned oncologists located locally. The way the website works is fairly simple. Patients need to upload their medical reports, then the algorithm identifies the right oncologist on the basis of the type of cancer described, and then the free second opinion is emailed to the individual within 48 to 72 working hours,” said Soin, who is now 19-years- old and is majoring in economics from a college in Los Angeles, USA.
The website also uses the information on the patient’s location to find the right oncologist and forwards the query to the doctor concerned.
She added that the idea was conceived in January 2018 and the website went live in August 2018. “The seven months in between were spent persuading doctors of various specialties from some of the best hospitals in the city and New Delhi to join the cause. After initial hesitation, most doctors agreed. They realised that through the website they would become more accessible to potential patients, with whom they may not be able to connect with otherwise,” Soin said.
In the five months since the website was launched, over 900 patients have sought second opinions through cancerx.co.in, which has a tie-up with 141 doctors.
The venture, Soin said, is completely non-profit, does not have any investor or feature any advertisements. The consultations for second opinions are free of cost. However, any further medical procedure is charged by the doctors.
Ravi Singh (name changed), a resident of DLF Phase 1 who recently used the website, said, “I had been struggling with loss of vision and blackouts for some time. An MRI confirmed a tumour in my brain but I was struggling to get a second opinion on the best course of treatment. I discovered this website and uploaded my medical history. They suggested a few neurosurgeons in Gurugram for me to undergo a craniotomy and got me doctor’s opinion in a matter of a few hours without paying a single rupee.”
Jhajjar-resident Vikas Kumar, who used the website to get a second opinion on his father’s long-standing back pain, found that his father was suffering from MDS (myelodysplastic syndromes), a type of cancer.
“My father had a long-standing complaint of back pain. When someone casually mentioned that untreatable back pain can also be a symptom of myeloma, I surfed the web and came across the website. After a few basic tests and an opinion from an onco-haematologist through the website, he was diagnosed with MDS. We simply cannot rely on a local doctor for such a diagnosis,” Kumar said.
The website also has a blog that offers individuals the chance to read up on various cancer-related issues. The blog also incorporates articles written by local oncologists on their areas of specialty and consists of interviews with local oncologists on the subject to raise awareness about cancer, its symptoms and the treatments available and help patients with disease management.
Dr Rahul Bhargava, director of haematology at Fortis, Gurugram, and one of the panellists on the website said, “When a person is diagnosed with cancer, it is vital that it is dealt with only by experts with updated knowledge. The website gives hope to many who are suffering from this dreaded disease for seeking second opinions free of cost.”