State of Head & Neck Cancer Management in India

Head and Neck Cancer has been a significant clinical problem in India, which is currently one of the countries with highest incidence of such cancers in the world. However, standards of care for this dreadful disease are not uniform and do not comply with the international norms of treatment. This has resulted in poor survival rates for patients across the country. Despite the high prevalence of this disease in India, the country has contributed very little in clinical or scientific research in the field. Further, patient care is distributed among various specialties such as general surgeons, otolaryngologists, and radiation and medical oncologist, thereby reducing standardization and efficacy of treatment.

Formation of the foundation

In 2001, with the objective of improving standardization and coordination of multidisciplinary cancer patient care, Dr Ashok Shenoy proposed the formation of a specialized oncologic society to a number of interested head and neck oncologists and received an encouraging response. After further discussions and a preliminary meeting in Bangalore during a Bangalore Institute of Oncology workshop organized by Dr Ram Mohan Tiwari, a national meeting was planned to launch the society. Dr Sudhir Bahadur organized this preparatory national meeting at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi in October 2001.

A National steering committee under the guidance of Dr Ram Mohan Tiwari was formed with Dr Ashok Shenoy as the Secretary and Dr Subramania Iyer as Treasurer. Subsequently the society was christened the Foundation for Head and Neck Oncology (FHNO). Its inaugural meeting was held at Bangalore in January 2002 under the stewardship of Dr Tiwari and Dr Shenoy and was attended by more than 200 delegates from across the country. The Foundation was registered as a Charitable Societies Registration act. Subsequent national conferences were held in Kolkata, New Delhi and Hyderabad.

Since its formation, the Foundation has been active in organizing Continuing Medical Education (CME) programs, surgical workshops and post-graduate teaching programs. Two orations were instituted during the annual conferences – The Hiranandani Oration and P.A. Shah Oration – to honor the doyens of head and neck surgery in India. Orators are distinguished head and neck oncologists from various parts of the world. In 2006, an additional oration in the name of Dr Ram Mohan Tiwari was instituted to honor a distinguished clinical and basic sciences research scientist for his/her contribution to the field.