New hope for breast cancer patients

Vinaya Patil
Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Navya, an expert opinion service, initiated in collaboration with Tata Memorial Centre, helps breast cancer patients access opinions from experts around the world by simply registering online

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers, especially among Indian women. It is, however, a non-existent entity for a majority of population till a near and dear one suffers from it. Healthcare is low on priority and even in major cities, health screening is also an alien word for most people. So naturally, this results in most patients visiting doctors only when the situation worsens (stages 3 and 4). These patients thus do not tend to survive for a long time, as compared to their western counterparts. October, being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, has seen a lot of activities to generate this much-needed awareness.

Coming closer home, breast cancer accounts for 31.4 per cent of all cancers in women in Pune, says data by the National Cancer Registry Programme (NCRP). While we have a number of hospitals and healthcare providers to deal with the situation, is it enough? Probably not, especially for the rural population, who face an acute shortage of infrastructure and even skilled medical practitioners.

NCRP statistics show that breast cancer is now the most common cancer in most cities in India, and the second most common in rural areas. Thus was born Navya, a computative decision system that uses published medical literature, globally-accepted guidelines, consensus opinion of world leading experts, treatment opinions and outcomes of similar patients, and patient’s preferences or risk/ benefit trade-offs of treatment options to make expert treatment decisions and convey them to patients online.

Navya Expert Opinion Service was initiated in collaboration with Tata Memorial Centre to provide online opinions. So far, over 10,000 patients have registered and over 5,000 patients have been provided with evidence and experience-based information on diagnostic evaluations, response assessments, follow-up treatments, surveillance, clinical trials, and responses to follow-up questions, clarifications, and requests for regimen details.

Among experts from 22 countries around the world is Dr Shona Nag from Pune. She is among the four breast cancer specialised oncologists chosen from India. Dr Nag receives around five to seven queries every week. “It is a way of discouraging people from constantly having to make trips to hospitals for opinions,” says Dr Nag, adding, “This is a place where a person will get the best opinion online, without having to worry about money. They just pay a very reasonable one-time fee for registering themselves on Navya and that’s all. All the doctors work pro bono.”

Navya helps treat patients residing in remote areas by collaborating with experts online on treatment plans for their patients. There are only a limited number of experts, concentrated mostly in metropolitan cities, but the need for expertise in cancer is countrywide.

“There is great demand for online expert opinions, and to make this more widely available across the country, we are expanding the cohort of experts to include the National Cancer Grid,” Dr Nag explains.

The team at Navya provides a structured abstract of the patient’s history and investigations fetched from test reports by trained analysts. This is sent to the patients via mobile application ExpertApp. Information on the ExpertApp and the system and service that coordinates the online opinions, is attached. And the data about the doctors and the patients is kept anonymous.

“The opinions enable a one-day turnaround. It takes the experts a few minutes to review the structured summary and provide their opinions on their mobile. Navya provides an easy-to-read expert opinion report within one day of receiving the patient’s medical reports. Quick turnarounds empower patients to start treatments locally, as per guidance from experts,” says Dr Nag.

What about recognition of these opinions? “Navya is almost synonymous with Tata Memorial Centre, so there is no question of recognition, considering it is one of the best cancer hospitals in Asia,” answers Dr Nag.

Anyone who wants to register for this service, can visit

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