Lifestyle changes can not only prevent cancer but also reduce medical bills over time

Health Care, Heart Care Foundation of India, Medicine 2 Comments

Both affordability and quality of services hold importance

New Delhi, 23 January 2019: A new study now finds that cancer survivors carry a higher burden related to medical debt payments and bills compared with individuals without a cancer history. The greatest hardships are found in younger survivors. Medical financial hardship can encompass three domains: material (such as problems paying medical bills); psychological (for example, worrying about paying medical bills); and behavioral (which might include forgoing or delaying care because of cost).

When a patient seeks health care, he/she looks for availability, quality and affordability. Safety, desired outcome of treatment and respect are becoming more and more important to the patients today. Quality is always preferred but it may not always be feasible because quality care may increase the cost of treatment.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Although cancer has become an epidemic with a steep rise in its incidence, the irony is that cancer medicines are very expensive and beyond the reach of a common man. Thus, price control is very necessary to provide people with affordable cancer medicines. The government should also take adequate steps to ensure early diagnosis of cancer because it is a proven fact that early diagnosis can save many lives. There are four major types of clinical preventive care: immunizations, screening, behavioral counseling (lifestyle changes), and chemoprevention. This nomenclature is applied differently by some other disciplines.”

Cancer is the name given to a collection of related diseases that are caused when a group of abnormal cells begins to grow uncontrollably, often forming a tumor. Tumors can either be benign or malignant.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor-in-Chief of IJCP, said, “Under the light of these increasing prices, should we focus on affordability or should we focus on quality? Every hospital or health care establishment must try to improve and maximize quality within the resources that are available to them and with the best use of those resources. Poor quality service indicates poor utilization of resources. Both quality and affordability need to be balanced, especially in a country like ours, which has one of the highest out of expenditures on health in the world.”

Some tips from HCFI

  • Pay attention to symptoms and get yourself checked regularly.
  • Using any type of tobacco puts a person at an increased risk of cancer. Avoiding or stopping the consumption of tobacco is one of the foremost steps in cancer prevention.
  • Filter tap water properly as this can reduce your exposure to possible carcinogens and hormone-disrupting chemicals.
  • Get vaccinated on time and as per schedule. For example, the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine helps prevent most cervical cancers and several other kinds of cancer.
  • Drinking plenty of water and other liquids can help in reducing the risk of bladder cancer by diluting the concentration of cancer-causing agents in urine and helping to flush them through the bladder faster.
  • Most importantly, make lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants which can help ward off diseases.

Should air pollution be named as one of the causes of sudden death?

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Nine out of ten people now breathe polluted air, which kills 7 million people every year, says the World Health Organization (WHO).

Air pollution has now emerged as a major environmental risk factor for health. “The health effects of air pollution are serious – one third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease are due to air pollution. This is having an equivalent effect to that of smoking tobacco, and much higher than, say, the effects of eating too much salt” (WHO).

In 2016, as per WHO, ambient or outdoor air pollution caused an estimated 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide in both cities and rural areas; 58% of outdoor air pollution-related premature deaths were due to ischemic heart disease and strokes, while 18% of deaths were due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and acute lower respiratory infections respectively, and 6% of deaths were due to lung cancer. More than 90% of these deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries.

And it’s just not outdoor air pollution; household (indoor) air pollution also causes 4 million deaths annually.

Pollutants with the strongest evidence for public health concern include particulate matter (PM), ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2).

Air pollution has been identified as a trigger of acute cardiovascular events (myocardial infarction and stroke). A recent study presented at Heart Rhythm 2018, the Heart Rhythm Societys 39th Annual Scientific Sessions, which evaluated 112,700 women in the ongoing Nurses Health Study showed that lower-risk women exposed to particular matter (PM) for even a short amount of time are at an increased risk of sudden cardiac death. This association was significant on cold days – at low temperatures below 13°C.

In a report published by the ICMR in The Lancet Planetary Health in December 2017, ICMR clearly stated that 1.24 million deaths in 2017 were caused by exposure to air pollution; one in eight deaths was due to the constantly deteriorating air quality. ICMR also observed that life expectancy in India is reduced by 1.7 years on an average due to bad air quality.

This report was considered devoid of merit by the Environment ministry.

But, prior to the ICMR report, in 2015, the health ministry had released a report saying that air pollution causes impacts similar to that of tobacco smoking. The report also said that there was evidence of adverse pregnancy outcomes, tuberculosis, asthma exacerbation, cancer and thus, air pollution needs to be addressed during public health programs.

The environment ministry maintains that since no death certificates have pollution listed as the reason of death there is no correlation between air quality and deaths due to the same.

Doctors do not mention pollution as a cause of death, because pollution is not recognized as a cause of death and has no insurance cover. Natural disasters are generally not covered in routine insurance.

However, these statistics only serve to emphasize that perhaps the time has come to declare pollution as one of the causes of all sudden deaths, particularly when the pollution levels in the city are high.

Dr KK Aggarwal

Padma Shri Awardee

President Elect Confederation of Medical Associations in Asia and Oceania (CMAAO)

Group Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications

President Heart Care Foundation of India

Past National President IMA