Dr. B. Veerendra Kumar, President, Indian Association of Oral
and Maxillofacial Pathologists [IAOMP]
Dr. P.S. Thaha, Chairman, PMS Dental College,

Dr. BVR Reddy, Conference Secretary,

Dr. Nadeem Jeddy, Secretary, IAOMP,

Dr. Ipe V. Varghese, Patron

Dr. Susmita Saxena, President Elect IAOMP,

Dr. R. Heera, Organizing Chairperson,

Dr. T.T. Sivakumar, Organizing Secretary,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Evening to all.

I am very happy to inaugurate the 28th National Conference of the Indian Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathologists, which is being hosted in Kerala after a gap of 15 years.

I understand that nearly 750 delegates from all over India and abroad are attending this Conference, which is conceived as a Scientific Summit on Oral Cancer. Let me welcome all of them to Kerala, the green paradise, which is celebrating its Formation Day, today.

As we all know, the work of a Maxillofacial Pathologist is often seen as a bridge between medicine and dentistry, since it pertains to the diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting the mouth, jaws, face and neck. However, the statistics related to the oral diseases, especially oral cancer, reminds us of the significance of this bridge specialty.

Therefore, let me begin by complimenting the Indian Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathologists for conducting this annual conference with a view to enrich the knowledge of the practitioners of this specialty. I am informed that the Indian Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathologists, which was constituted in 1992, as a scientific body for the advancement of the arts , science and practice of  Oral Pathology and Oral Microbiology, has been regularly  conducting Continuing Dental Education programmes, seminars and workshops.  I am sure that the decision of the Association to initiate a National Registry to collect data on like Oral Cancer would help in fighting dreaded Oral diseases. 

The theme of today's Conference suggests that, India CAN conquer Oral Cancer. This determination to conquer the disease comes in the wake of recent revelation about 3.58 billion people being affected by oral disease worldwide. India has one third of all the cases in the world. In fact, Oral cancer is known to account for around 30% of all cancers in India. 

I would say that diseases like Cancer have to be viewed not just as medical problems, but more as social issues. The Health sector must give equal importance to the study of the social conditions in assessing the incidence of such diseases.  Today, if the incidence of oral cancer is within the top three of all cancers in some Asian countries, it points to the inequalities in the oral health which exist among different population groups around the world.

The strong impact of social determinants on oral health, is evident in the fact that nearly 80% of the one billion smokers in the world live in countries, which are economically weak. In fact, all over the world, the use of tobacco, either to smoke or chew, remains the single greatest avoidable risk factor for cancer mortality. The incidence of Oral cancer, which is more common among men and older people, also varies strongly according to socio-economic conditions. In India, over 3500 people die every day due to excessive use of tobacco and we had over three lakh such deaths in 2018.

We have no doubt that prevention is better than cure. When it comes to Oral Cancer, we need to make people better informed about the ways of avoiding it through a healthy life style. 

Since screening and early detection are important in reducing death rates from cancers, we also need to find more effective ways of awareness creation.  If patients are reluctant to come, the best method is to reach out to them.

I am happy that this Association had conducted several detection programmes for the people in recent years. It is commendable that the ‘India Can’ Torch, which was lit at the last year's Conference at Amritsar, had travelled to different parts of India, spreading awareness on Oral Cancer, before culminating its journey at this venue in Thiruvananthapuram.

We also must discuss whether the human rights of our patients are properly observed during treatment procedures. Fear is a major hurdle in convincing people about the treatment protocols.

It is this fear that drives many patients to unqualified healers who assure them of remedies without side effects, but end up killing them. Effective and credible patient counseling has to be ensured in every hospital which treats Cancers.

Fortunately, in India, we have been campaigning strongly against the use of tobacco through all possible media including films. But, the utterly grotesque portrayal of the images of cancer often tend to create fear and aversion rather than clear awareness. Fear may be a deterrent, but it is not as lasting as understanding which results in a logical resolve to shun such habits.

Equally important is our attitude to the people who are affected by cancer. Our noted Malayalam actor and former Member of Parliament, Shri Innocenthas narrated in his book, Laughing Cancer Away, about the disturbing silence in the household and workplace when he was diagnosed with cancer. Finally, it was up to him to declare loudly to the family that his Cancer was curable.

A positive attitude to the disease is very important. Some say that with the right attitude, the medicines work better. Here, I recall a study published by The Royal Society of United Kingdom in 2011 about how laughter would release endorphins in the brain and help in stimulating pain reduction and euphoria. 

The next year, a hospital in Washington opened a Laugh Cafe, for senior citizens to tell jokes and laugh together, so that their attention could be diverted from the disease to more pleasant things.  I have heard that all over the world, hospitals and health care groups are taking advantage of this natural medicine.

This psychological approach is something the Maxillofacial pathologists in Kerala could perhaps experiment.  I say this in the light of the contributions made by the Govt. Dental College, Thiruvananthapuram in this discipline. The pioneering work done by the Late Dr. Jacob Zacharia along with the Late Dr. Jens Pindborg in the Indo—Danish Oral Cancer project of 1965 remains as a strong foundation for Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology in India.

Similarly, doctors here could perhaps think of laying the foundation for a smile-model for the patients.

I conclude with the hope that this Conference would devise a strategy to control the incidence of Oral cancer and to create better awareness among the people about a healthier way of life.

I once again greet all the delegates and wish them a happy stay as well as effective deliberations in the conference. My best wishes to Dr. Varun and Dr.Jayanthi who have received fellowships today.

I also compliment the organizers for conducting this function in a befitting manner.

                                                          लोका: समस्ता: सुखिनो भवन्तु ।
                                                              वलरे नन्नि/ जय हिन्द ।