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South Asian J Cancer. 2018 Oct-Dec;7(4):244-248. doi: 10.4103/sajc.sajc_104_17.

Population-based cancer screening through community participation: Outcome of a district wide oral cancer screening program from rural Kannur, Kerala, India.

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Department of Community Oncology, Malabar Cancer Centre, Kannur, Kerala, India.
PATH, Department of International Development, India Country Programme, New Delhi, India.
Department of Community Medicine, Government T. D. Medical College, Alappuzha, Kerala, India.
Academy for Public Health, Calicut, Kerala, India.
Malabar Cancer Centre, Kannur, Kerala, India.



Oral cancer is a major public health challenge, and about one-fifth of all oral cancer cases reported globally are from India. In spite of the potential for early detection by simple visual examination, the majority of patients report in later stages of the disease, especially in low and middle-income countries. We report the results from a district level population-based oral cancer screening program.


A cross-sectional survey was carried out among people aged >15 years in 48 panchayats of Kannur district in Kerala, India. This comprehensive multi-stakeholder district-wide screening was carried out in six stages including planning, sensitization, recruiting of community volunteers and training, survey, organization of specialist camps and referring to cases to cancer center. The descriptive statistical analysis was performed using EpiData analysis software (Version


Among the 1,061,088 people in 265,272 houses surveyed, 2507 of them attended the screening camps, and 13 oral cancers and 174 oral precancers were detected. Majority of the oral cancer patients were male (69%), with primary education or illiterate (62%) and low socioeconomic status (61%). Five of the patients diagnosed with early-stage cancer are alive and have good oral health-related quality of life.


Detection of precancerous and early-stage cancers should be a priority of oral cancer screening programs. The possible key for addressing cancer screening needs of the rural population is to equip the primary health centers in cancer screening activities with available human resources while adapting to local context.


Cancer screening; community participation; early detection; oral cancer

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