Smokeless tobacco spells death in Bengal

Smoking is injurious to health but chewing can be just as devastating. Baruipur resident Dipankar Chatterjee learned this the hard way a few months ago.

Chatterjee was smoking a pack of cigarettes until 2008, when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Since the disease was detected at an early stage, long-term treatment to cure him of the disease. But more was in store for Chatterjee. He managed to stop smoking, but have developed the habit of chewing gutka. He could not live without at least 12-15 bags gutka every day. A couple of months ago, he was diagnosed with oral cancer.

“I could not believe the cancer struck me twice. I spent Rs 1.5 lakh for the treatment of my lungs, now doctors have asked me to keep the Rs 2 crore set for the treatment of oral cancer. This is not about money, I care about. Doctors say that there are more serious this time, “Chatterjee said, writhing in pain.

“Smokeless tobacco is more dangerous, because the contact between carcinogens from the body is very high. This leads to the field cancerization in areas such as chewing gum, throat and mouth,” said Arnab Gupta, director Saroj Gupta Cancer Center and Research Institute.

“In my career, I have seen hundreds of families destroyed. Those, Rs 2 bags not only kill the addict. It brings the whole family, even from well-off backgrounds, on the road. Treatment times become more painful than the disease, and the results,” said Dr. p Aniruddha Dam, the head of the head and neck department in CNCI.

Cancer literally brought Umakanta Roy, a school teacher from Coochbehar, on the road. Gutka addict until 2009, Roy was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2010. In the past two years, he went to Vellore, Chennai and Mumbai even for his treatment. But he could get proper treatment in anywhere. He is currently being treated at Saroj Gupta Cancer Center.

“All my savings is gone for my treatment. Now, how I marry my daughter? Would be better if I die,” 59-year-old Roy sobbed.

It was noted that young people at the aged of 20 years, especially from lower socio-economic background are increasingly getting addicted to gutka. “That’s because they use gutka as an appetite suppressor. Instead of a full meal, they prefer to chew gutka, to kill their hunger,” Dam explained.

Oncologists said another disturbing trend: patients from remote areas are more aware than in the city. “People in the city are too reluctant to see a doctor. When they land in the hospital, it’s too late for treatment. If city people die due to late diagnosis, the people of the villages are losing the battle due to the costs, “Dam said.

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