Oral cancer is on the increase in India. India accounts for 86 percent of the world’s cases of oral cancer and 90 percent of those are linked to tobacco.
Incidences of oral cancer are particularly high in areas where chewable tobacco is popular. Selling any tobacco products to children is illegal in India, but a recent survey has shown that the number of teenagers who chew tobacco in Mumbai has doubled over the past ten years.
Seventeen year old Roshan started chewing tobacco at the age of eight. He now has advanced oral cancer and recently had to have his upper jaw removed.
In this film we speak with doctors and patients involved with oral cancer. Doctor Chaturvedi has been a head and neck surgeon for the past fifteen years. He says his patients are getting younger.
Tali was twenty-eight years old when he was first diagnosed with oral cancer. He used to smoke and use a chewable tobacco widely known as gutkha. In this film, Tali will have a large part of his tongue removed because his cancer has come back.
Tobacco has been chewed for centuries in India. But gutkha has only appeared in recent decades. It is chewable tobacco, mass marketed, attractively packaged, cheap, popular and portable.
Although it is illegal to sell tobacco products to children, Dr Gupta believes this law is not often enforced. His institute conducted a survey of 1,500 teenagers in Mumbai. They found that the proportion who said they chewed tobacco had doubled over the past ten years.
Dr Chaturvedi says he is now seeing cancer patients who started to chew gutkha before they even reached their teens.
Back to Roshan, in this film we see him undergoing a course of radiotherapy for his cancer. Roshan will undergo this treatment for two months. But despite all this treatment, he has only a fifty percent chance of making it to his twenty second birthday – in five years time.