Badal said it was a habit among the Punjabis to sit over the warning signs of a disease till it reaches the advanced stage and urged people not to delay the cancer treatment. "Cancer is curable. If the disease is treated early, people can get cured. I will give my own example, 20 years back I too had this complaint of cancer. I got treatment from USA and got fully cured. My father and my wife also fell prey to cancer. The name of this disease sends chill down the spine and family comes under great stress, but there is no need to lose hope, but the only thing is that people should not delay the treatment," Badal said in Chandigarh. He was interacting with reporters at the function that pertained to combating incidences of cancer in the state.

The Punjab government has partnered with Max Healthcare and will be holding a cancer screening camp in 22 districts of the state on September 28-29. The Max is the lead partner of the camp, in which top oncologists will be available at the district hospitals and three medical colleges of Amritsar, Patiala and Faridkot University.

Cricketer Yuvraj Singh, who overcame the dreaded disease, was also present at the press conference. "Yuvi (Yuvraj) is sitting amongst us, he went through great pain, we used to pray for him. Now, I see his matches, he hits sixes. If he can hit sixes, everyone else too can hit sixes (hit cancer for a six)," Badal said.

"I appeal to people of Punjab to visit these camps on Saturday and Sunday and get them checked," he said. CM said that the state government is chalking out an important action plan to combat cancer. He said the state government would soon set up two modern cancer diagnostic and treatment centers at Amritsar and Patiala, for combating cancer in an effective manner.

The Chief Minister also said that the state government had already transferred its prime land in Mullanpur near Chandigarh for the setting up of a world class cancer hospital on the lines of Tata Memorial Cancer Hospital in Mumbai. This 400-bed hospital project is currently awaiting the nod of the Union Cabinet, he informed. In Bathinda, a 100-bed hospital under Baba Farid University will be completed in December.

"By next year, you will find that Punjab will have specialized treatment for cancer and people from different parts of the country and even abroad will come to the state to get treatment," he said. Badal said the state government has also constituted a 'corpus fund' to help the poor and needy patients.

The Chief Minister asked the state government's Health Secretary Vinni Mahajan, who was present at the function, to ensure that cancer drugs are available at cheaper rates for the patients. Badal further said that during his visit to Faridkot recently, he had received complaints that the cancer drugs available inside the medical college were costlier than the open market and asked Mahajan to take necessary steps in this regard.

Earlier, addressing the function, Yuvraj Singh said that having a screening camp was a good initiative of the state government and Max. "I also want to thank Punjab government for making me ambassador of the cancer drive," he said.

"I have also fought this disease. I will appeal to people to get tested early so that treatment can be started early and they can get fully cared. There is fear, there was fear in me when I learnt about my disease, but one has to fight it. You have to fight it alone, though family and friends are on your side and support you through. The earlier it is detected the better and with good doctors and support staff around, there is no need to fear, just show courage and one can overcome the odds," Yuvraj Singh said.

Meanwhile, in the first phase of the cancer awareness programme, the state government had conducted a widespread door-to-door survey, earlier in 2013, covering 22 districts across the state. The survey reported approximately 24,000 self-declared cancer cases and 87,000 reported symptoms which could be indicative of cancer.

"Efforts were made in the second phase (recently) to take all suspected cases for final diagnosis. As a result, 2,200 new cases have been identified and treatment started. It is time to now wrap up the second phase through this two-day mega camp," Mahajan informed.

(Agencies)

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