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Meet Dr. Subhadra Goala; Barak Valley girl on a mission to defeat Cancer in Assam

The word ‘Cancer’ is a nightmare that keeps people awake all night long. According to a WHO report, Global Cancer burden is estimated to have risen to 18.1 million new cases & 9.6 million deaths in 2018. 1 in 5 men & 1 in 6 women worldwide develops cancer during their lifetime & 1 in 8 men & 1 in 11 women die from the diseases. It is true that cancer has become an epidemic but at the same time, it’s also durable.

“Cancer is 100% curable. The secret of treatment lies in its early detection”, this was once said by the director of Cachar Cancer Hospital Dr. Ravi Kannan and detecting early is the motto that the hospital follows.

Established back in 1996, the hospital faced multiple challenges like financial crunch, infrastructure, lack of machinery, until it got it’s saviour in the form of Dr. Ravi Kannan in 2007. Cancer patients call him a light in the darkest nights. But there was another problem. The hospital noticed that only a few patients who came for the initial check-up would come back again for a follow-up. Every year, the hospital would conduct a review and find that most patients didn’t return a second time. They realized that most of the patients were the sole breadwinners of their families and couldn’t afford to not work. The hospital runners started burning their midnight oil trying to figure out a way which would help Cancer patients complete their treatment without losing the daily wager. Soon the hospital started home visits and door to door cancer prevention activity. 
This noble beginning found soon found a pilar in the form of Dr. Subhadra Goala. Resident of Silchar, Subhadra Goala pursued dental education from Regional Dental College, Guwahati but has now got associated with Cachar Cancer hospital as Medical officer and Research Scientist. She believes that there is no need for any specialty to work in Cancer prevention and anyone from any medical field can work on it. 

What comes as proud news, for not only Barak Valley but for the entire state is she has been selected by the United States-based National Institute of Health/National Cancer Institute (Centre of global Health) for a fellowship course on Preventive Oncology and is representing India in the programme spread across 36 countries. Here is what doctor Goala had to say in an exclusive interview with Barak Bulletin’s contributor and a student of National Institute of Technology Silchar, Kushal Deb Roy.


Edited Excerpts:


How do you get selected for this fellowship programme?


They select on the basis of work that anyone does in the community or root level. I am working in Preventive oncology. We, in the past one year, have screened about 23,000 people in Cachar district along with my nurses and ASHA workers and treated around 300 people in their primary cancer stage. So when I submitted all of my work, they selected me. 


You are a dental surgeon, but now working in Cancer prevention. Can you throw some light on the transition?


Yes, I am a dental surgeon. But I want to make clear that there is nothing as such that if you are a dental surgeon or an MBBS or from a different background, you can’t work in cancer prevention. If you have an interest or passion to do work in this field you can join. In India, there is a perception that if you are in any field you have to continue in that field, but what I have experienced here is, people from different background are working for cancer prevention.


What role did Dr. Ravi Kannan Sir play in your achievement?


Dr. Ravi Kannan sir is my mentor and inspiration. He often inspires and motivates me. He is a living legend. I remembered once he said to me that ‘be a doctor but be a kind doctor’. There are many things to learn from him.


What is your aim after completing this fellowship programme? Will you join back Cachar Cancer Hospital?

Yes, I only came here to learn so that I can implement it for the betterment of my state. My intention will be to connect my institute with this one in the US so that my state gets some more facilities. In Assam, cancer is like an epidemic, out of every 1000 individuals 10 are suffering from oral cancer. So learning from them will help us to build our health care service stronger.


Being a doctor, what advice you will want to give to the common citizens, related to cancer prevention?


I want all who read this should inform each other for early detection of oral, breast and cervical cancer and every individual with tobacco habit should go for oral screening. Woman between the age of 30 to 65 age should go for breast and cervical cancer screening. If they do so, best case scenario they will get to know that they do not have Cancer so they can live tension free. Worst case scenario they will get detected at an early stage when it is completely curable. They can come to hospital for screening & it is free of cost.

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