Mumbai: Doctors split over the idea of chemotherapy at home

News Cancer

Senior oncologists said chemotherapy is best administered in a hospital setting that can offer emergency care, on Wednesday, as a pilot project offering “chemotherapy at home” was launched from Kurla.

Jika Healthcare founder Jignesh Patel is certain that some “strata of the population” are prepared for the “chemo at home” program. According to Patel, cancer patients are in a vulnerable state, so we provide them with chemotherapy in their homes with a doctor, a skilled nurse, and an attendant on call.

With the help of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the IIT Hyderabad’s entrepreneurship cell, his organization ran the “Covid vaccination on wheels” campaign throughout several Indian states.

‘During the pandemic, home chemo was beneficial.’
Some homecare providers also provide chemotherapy at home. “It makes economic sense as well because the patient can save up to 20% to 25% of hospital chemotherapy bills,” said Vivek Srivastava of HealthCare at Home, which claims to have performed over 900 cancer procedures at home in major cities. Because chemotherapy can cost up to Rs 5-6 lakh in some cases, a 25% savings is significant.

Chemotherapy, like surgery and radiotherapy, is a type of cancer treatment that involves the administration of oral medications, injections, or IV drips. “Many hospitals offer pre and post-chemo care at home,” said a senior doctor with a corporate hospital in north Mumbai, “but it’s not advisable to undergo chemotherapy outside of a hospital setting.”

“As doctors, we have seen patients develop anaphylactic (a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction) reactions to drugs or the need for a crash cart,” said Dr. Shripad Banavali, director (academics) at the country’s premier cancer care hub, Tata Memorial Centre in Parel. He added that daycare centers that offer chemotherapy are an option because they have some medical infrastructure but not at home.

However, the pandemic was a game changer; many patients postponed chemotherapy because they couldn’t travel to cancer hospitals, typically located in larger cities. This prompted Dr. Manish Singhal of Apollo Hospital in Delhi to offer home chemotherapy. “I reached out and secured 500 sessions during this period,” he explained. “To be safe, we will not offer chemotherapy at home to patients with gastro-intestinal and blood cancers,” Patel said.

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