Science & Tech

Rising Cancer Cases and Economic Burden in India

Cancer cases in India are expected to exceed 15 lakh by 2025, raising concerns about the fiscal burden of expensive cancer treatments and patient access to affordable healthcare.


  • Cancer is a group of diseases that arise when cells in the body begin to grow and divide uncontrollably, leading to the formation of tumors.
  • Cells in the body normally grow, divide, and die in an orderly manner, but in cancer, this process is disrupted, resulting in an accumulation of abnormal cells that can form a mass or tumor.
  • Cancer can impact any part of the body and come in a variety of forms. Some cancers, such as leukemia, do not develop tumors but still involve uncontrolled cell growth.
  • Cancer symptoms differ depending on the type and location of the cancer, but common indications include unexplained weight loss, fatigue, pain, and skin changes or the appearance of a lump or mass.

Cancer Treatment’s Economic Burden

Inaccessible and Increasing Costs:

  • According to the NSS 2017-18 report, the average medical expenditure per hospitalization instance for cancer therapy was 68,259 in urban areas.
  • A report by the Parliamentary Standing Committee voiced concern about the inaccessibility and rising cost of cancer treatment.

Regulatory Obstacles:

  • While anti-cancer medication costs can be regulated, radiotherapy costs cannot because it has not been designated an essential service.
  • Insurance and out-of-pocket expenses.

Impact on Patients:

  • Cancer frequently hits around retirement age, resulting in mounting debt burdens.
  • The typical hospital stay for 14.1% of cancer patients is more than 30 days, which adds to the cost.

Insurance Coverage and Out-of-Pocket Expenses

  • Poor Insurance Penetration: More than 80% of hospital bills are paid out of pocket, as per the NSS 2017-18 report.
  • Limitations of Ayushman Bharat: The Committee noted that the Ayushman Bharat insurance plan, which was introduced in 2018, does not cover complete prescriptions, the most recent cancer therapies, or many diagnostic tests.
  • State-Specific Insurance Programs: Because some state-specific insurance schemes have been extremely advantageous, the Committee proposed a convergence of state and central schemes.

Cancer Treatment Expenditure Variation by State

  • The average medical expenditure per hospitalization case for cancer treatment in government hospitals differs by state, with Tamil Nadu and Telangana having the lowest and northern and north-eastern India having the highest.

@the end

The increasing number of cancer cases in India highlights the need to handle the economic burden of expensive cancer treatments and better patient access to affordable healthcare. Converging State and Central insurance schemes, expanding insurance coverage, and investigating methods to control treatment costs are critical steps in ensuring that patients have access to life-saving treatments without facing insurmountable financial barriers.

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