The Rise of Cancer in Urban India: Cultural Understandings, Structural Inequalities and the Emergence of the Clinic

Alexander Broom, Assa Doron

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Cancer services in India have evolved and expanded significantly in recent years, with a surge in the availability of biomedical oncological treatment facilities for certain cohorts of the Indian population in urban areas. Despite significant and sustained economic development in many areas of India, major issues persist in the delivery of cancer care, even in the context of relatively prosperous urban populations. This article explores the dilemmas evident in Indian cancer care as perceived by a group of Indian oncology clinicians. Specifically, the interviews focused on their perspectives on the key challenges facing cancer patients, particularly in relation to help-seeking and access to care. The main concerns that emerged in the interviews were: (a) practical constraint (i.e. access and treatment); (b) cultural values (i.e. communication, stigma and the clinic); and (c) structural conditions (i.e. inequalities related to place, gender and class). We unpack these as important elements of cancer care in contemporary India, and present Farmer's notion of structural violence, among other concepts, as potentially useful for understanding some facets of this social problem. We conclude that without a greater understanding of social and cultural issues shaping cancer care in India, little progress will be made in coping with a disease that is set to become a major burden within an increasingly prosperous and ageing population.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)250-266
    JournalHealth
    Volume16
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2012

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