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Cancer: Time to put diagnosis on fast track

Time spent on getting advanced confirmatory tests done should ideally be used by doctors on choosing the best course of treatment. Rhythma Kaul writes. Cancer FAQs | Common diagnostic techniques for cancer

health and fitness Updated: Jan 21, 2013 01:27 IST
Rhythma Kaul

The death of former video jockey Sophiya Haque, 41, recently due to a form of cancer within two weeks of diagnosis, underlines the urgency about the need for quick and appropriate treatment for those suffering from it.

However, a lot of precious time at the moment is wasted in getting advanced confirmatory tests done, for which samples are sent to the United States because of lack of such testing facilities in India or in the neighbouring countries.

The time spent such should ideally be used by doctors in zeroing-in on the best treatment option for the patient that is to be started as early as possible for a better treatment outcome, because of the fast spreading nature of the disease.

However, a new test facility claims to buck the trend.

"Rather than sending the sample abroad to get a second opinion from a specialist, our diagnostic laboratory will scan the slide, upload it on the website for our super-specialists to analyse and can provide us the result in as early as within 48 hours," said Zoya Brar, co-founder and director, Core Diagnostics, which is opening a specialised lab in Gurgaon on January 31.

For better treatment in a condition like cancer, not only accurate diagnosis is required, but disease stratification, prognosis, therapy selection and personalisation also play a key role.

"It will reduce the turnaround time significantly. At the moment, it takes a minimum two weeks for the results to reach India. We have a highly-trained team of specialists. India doesn't lack talent, what it needs is better infrastructure which we are providing," said Arghya Basu, co-founder and director, Core Diagnostics.

To begin with, Core Diagnostics will be performing 50 high-end tests under multiple panels including breast, cardiology, lung, cervical, pancreatic, oncology, etc.

But most of these tests are high-end tests aimed at a niche` group of cancer patients that involve sophisticated gene sequencing, molecular examination, etc.

"One can always know if the drug will work better on a person or not by analysing if the patient concerned has a particular gene or not," said Mohan Uttarwar, CEO, Core Diagnostics.

The tests will cost Rs. 4,000-Rs. 2 lakh, depending on whether it is a standalone test or part of a panel of tests.

"The person getting the tests done will also be paying less as it will save the shipping cost. We have plans of tying-up with hospitals, laboratories, independent doctors for samples. If the facility is available within the country then the samples won't have to be shipped abroad," Uttawar added.

However, there are pathologists who claim there is no test, including for cancer, which is not done in India and that can hold back the treatment.

"From the disease management point-of-view, there isn't any test without the result of which doctors can't start treatment. We send samples mostly for advanced analysis that are some of the research tests. America obviously is the hub as far as new research is concerned," said Dr Arvind Lal, owner of Lal Path labs.

Lal Path labs send about 100 samples abroad in a month, and according to Dr Lal, most results are sent back within a week after dispatching the sample.

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