How HNCII is stepping up to tackle rise of head and neck cancer in India

Just four months after its inauguration, the Head & Neck Cancer Institute of India (HNCII) is making rapid strides as it attempts to take on the challenge posed by the rise of head and neck cancers in India.


The 93-bed facility, which commenced operations on August 15, 2023, is a brainchild of Sultan Pradhan, a renowned cancer surgeon. It specializes in treating head, neck, and women’s cancers and seeks to offer comprehensive, cost-effective care.
Funded through a unique public-private partnership with the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), HNCII was established at a cost of ₹250 crore, supported by donations from patients and philanthropists. Notable contributors include the Narotam Sekhsaria Foundation, Jamshedji Tata Trust, HDFC, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, and foundations run by Cipla, Azim Premji, Mahindra, and DMart, among others.
India faces a high incidence of head and neck cancers because of high tobacco consumptions. Head and neck cancers account for 27.5% of all cancers in the country compared to just 4% in the West.

HNCII’s inception was driven by this urgent need. Under the leadership of its director Prathamesh Pai — a renowned cancer surgeon who once trained under Pradhan — HNCII has carried out 600 treatment procedures and 5,000 patient consultations to date.

The institute aims to focus not only on treating the disease but also prioritizes the overall well-being and quality of life of its patients. This approach is particularly vital given the complex nature of head and neck cancers, which can significantly impact patients’ daily lives.

The occupancy rate of HNCII, which has reached around 50%, highlights the acute demand for specialized cancer care.

HNCII also plans to expand its services, incorporating cutting-edge technology and treatments, and building out its facilities at two plots earmarked for further development.

The institute also wants to prioritise preventive oncology. Through collaborations with organizations like the Salaam Bombay Foundation and Cipla for Palliative Care, HNCII actively engages in community outreach, advocating for regular health screenings and health insurance, especially critical in a country where many lack health coverage.

Pradhan and Pai emphasise the importance of early detection in cancer treatment. They note that many patients present at advanced stages, making treatment more challenging. The institute’s leadership underscores the need for healthier lifestyles to combat tobacco-related cancers, a significant issue in India.

With a pedigreed leadership, a dedicated medical team, and a focus on affordability and prevention, HNCII aims to become a premier institute in the country offering cancer care. For Dr Pradhan, the need for prevention and early intervention is of utmost importance. His clarion call: “Don’t Wait, Come Early and Get Treated Early.”

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