Imparting the Gift of Life to Cancer Patients

Every cancer patient deserves to live life to the fullest”, Says Dr. Vishal Rao

Dr (Prof) U S Vishal Rao - MS, FRCS (Glasgow) FACS (USA) and Fellow of Royal Society of Medicine and Visiting scholar to University of Pittsburgh. He is currently the Group Director - Head Neck Surgical Oncology & Robotic Surgery at HCG Cancer centre Bengaluru and Dean - Centre of Academics &Research(HCG). He has more than 18 patents filed for his innovations in medical devices, drugs, techniques, and theories. He is also well-known TEDx speaker. He has more than 100 national and international publication to his credit and he is receipt of various awards from State as international bodies such as Kempegowda award by Govt and Judy Wilenfied award for Global Tobacco control by WHO Partners. He is a Member of High Power Committee on Tobacco Control - Govt of Karnataka and Member - Consultative Group to Principal Scientific Advisor to PM - Govt of India

Dr. Vishal Rao shares his pioneering thoughts on how to make cancer care more accessible, affordable, accurate, and affable.

How to Significantly enhance the Cancer Care spectrum

The Earlier you catch Cancer, the better the quality of life you give a patient.

The most critical concern should be about how to enable people to get immediate access to quality cancer treatment. The government has played a significant role in connecting the ecosystem by establishing Regional Cancer Centers across India and the National Cancer Grid (NCG) which is uniquely positioned to shape cancer policy. At least 200 cancer-focused hospitals are to be located across the country as per the initiative, which is a key step given the lack of cancer-focused hospitals in India. The vision of the Indian government and practicing oncologists should be unflinchingly focused on strengthening primary health care to detect cancer and other chronic diseases as early as possible, which will greatly help improve outcomes.


Let's say, for example, that if the cancer is in stage one or two, it is considered to be in its early stages but if it's a stage three or four, it's too late. Now, because stage one and two are early stages, it’s critical to use single modality as chemo and radiotherapy, which include more modalities, have higher costs and morbidities for outcomes. The simpler thing is, the earlier you arrest the disease, the sooner you safeguard the patient’s life. This approach has helped us revolutionize cancer care across the country in the last five years, to which the government has made substantial contributions.

Focus on Oncology- 'A 360-Degree Approach'

Commonly, a general hospital treats oncology as a department, like the other departments of cardiology, and pulmonology. HCG has been at the forefront of developing an oncology-focused model incorporating all of the other plugins. HCG took a 360-degree approach to build six robust pillars of oncology: medical oncology, radiation oncology, surgical oncology, radiology or imaging, pathology, and genetics. Further, there are about nine subdivisions which are largely organ specific. They include Head & Neck, Neurosurgery, Breast oncology, Cardiothoracic surgery, Hepatobiliary surgery, GI, Gynecologic oncology, Orthopedic, and Robotic surgery. This holistic approach necessitates a dedicated ecosystem that extends beyond the conventional services of oncology as a department, which is in fact the defining edge of the HCG group.

HCG Group-Improving the Quality of Life

"The quality of care is just as important as the quality of life," and this is what the HCG group has been continuously focusing on. Many cancer survivors need to reclaim their lives all over again and helping them do so is an integral part of our oncological outcomes. HCG is committed towards comprehending and determining how we can improve the patient’s quality of life. For this purpose, we have designed a programme called HCG life, which is about living life to the fullest extent. This philosophy places great emphasis on the encompassing role of rehabilitation. We cover the journey of the patient from prehabilitation to rehabilitation, and we have a dedicated team working on preventive oncology, which has three facets: primary prevention, secondary prevention, and tertiary prevention. In primary prevention, we collaborate with governments to develop policies related to cancer, tobacco control, food safety, and environmental issues. In secondary prevention, we focus on peripheral camps and rural camps, attempting to pick up patients who are late diagnosed or early diagnosed patients. In tertiary prevention, the goal is to maximize outcomes and prevent further morbidity from the disease process. Even after being cancer free, one must remain on active surveillance, and there is a support group to help connect the larger ecosystem to make the cancer conquerors grow and nurture each other's morale, and purpose and passion in life.

Role of Technology – Game changer towards improving a Patient's Quality of Life

From prevention to rehabilitation, technology is an integral part of healthcare, whether artificial intelligence, virtual reality, spectroscopy, rehabilitative devices and other modalities that are helping us pick up cancers at a very early stage. Robotic surgery and laser surgery technology has phenomenally transformed the surgical interventions through organ preservation. “This is not only the right time to adopt technology, but to look at technology as your trusted partner in progress.” and there couldn't be a better time in history when we could accelerate, augment and assess our healing hand in a definitive manner.

Adopting technology will be a critical aspect of contributing to oncology progress, from analyzing the vital information of a patient's immune system to the latest robotic surgeries and rehabilitative processes. Technology is here not to replace us, but to help us predict possibilities and enhance outcomes.

Final Thoughts

Every year, cancer claims millions of lives across the globe, and despite significant progress made through therapies and surgeries, there are still many sticky issues that need to addressed to move up the value chain of cancer care. Dr. Vishal and his team at the HCG Cancer Hospital Bengaluru are working on developing new and efficient therapies that can alleviate the critical side effects caused by conventional treatments and do their best to serve the larger cause of making India a cancer-free country.