Harm reduction should be adopted as a way of preventing cancer

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

Eating healthy, switching to lesser harmful alternatives are all ways to reduce harm

New Delhi, 8th January 2019: Actor-filmmaker Rakesh Roshan is the most recent of several celebrities to have become a victim to cancer. He has been diagnosed with throat cancer (squamous cell carcinoma of the throat).

Statistics indicate that smokers are up to 25 times more likely to develop a cancer of the throat than their non-smoking counterparts. However, passive smoking, tobacco chewing, and cigar smoking are also risk factors.

Another risk factor is excessive use of alcohol and infection with Human papilloma Virus, a virus also linked with cervical cancer in the women.

Throat cancer or squamous cell carcinoma of the tonsil is a part of cancers of the head and neck. In oncology, squamous cell cancers of the head and neck are often considered together because they share many similarities – in incidence, cancer type, predisposing factors, pathological features, treatment of the cancer and cancer prognosis. Up to 30% of cancer patients with one primary head and neck tumor will have a second primary malignancy.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Although people with certain habits such as smoking, drinking, unhealthy lifestyle, etc. are more at risk of acquiring health conditions such as cancer, others may also be susceptible. The prevalence of cancer in our country is not uniform all over. There is a difference in the types of cancer that affect people basis rural and urban settings. We have seen that in rural women, cervical cancer is the most widespread while in urban women, breast cancer is the most rampant. In case of men, rural people are majorly affected by cancers of the oral cavity while rural men are greatly inflicted by cancer of the lung. In India, tobacco causes 90% of cancers.”

Some signs and symptoms of throat cancer may include a cough; changes in your voice, such as hoarseness or not speaking clearly; difficulty swallowing; ear pain; a lump or sore that doesn’t heal; a sore throat; and Weight loss.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor-in-Chief of IJCP, said, “Given the rising incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer in India, there is a need to give focus on harm reduction strategies. Harm reduction is a public health strategy, which aims to mitigate the dangers or harms associated with an action or condition. For instance, in those who cannot quit combustible smoking or drinking altogether, one can switch to lesser harmful options like honey wine or faster acting only nicotine based replacement therapies to mitigate the effects. The emphasis here is not on the use itself, but on the negative outcomes of use.”

Here are some ways in which one can diagnose and prevent the onset of cancer at an early stage.

  • 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. Those who cannot stop must switch to safer alternatives.
  • 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.

Only 12.5% of those with cancer avail treatment at an early stage of the disease

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India is witnessing a steep rise in cancer cases, majority of which are due to lifestyle factors

New Delhi, 15 October 2018: Recent research suggests that there has been an increase in the incidence of gastrointestinal (GI) and skin cancer among locals in the Ladakh region of India. The high altitude, exposure to excessive ultraviolet (UV) rays, lack of oxygen, and a sedentary lifestyle are some of the causes attributed to the increase. The rise in GI cancer is mostly due to the unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle which includes consumption of stored meat and hot beverages.

GI cancer is more common in men over the age of 40. Women who have undergone menopause are also prone to it. What adds to the burden is that fact that people are not aware of the early symptoms of this condition especially in Ladakh. There is also a lack of access to cancer treatment and proper drugs to combat GI cancer.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Cancer cases in India are rising not just because of better diagnostic facilities but also owing to the shift in the way we lead our lives. About one-third of cancer deaths are related to 5 leading behavioral and dietary risks namely tobacco, high BMI, low fruit and vegetable consumption, lack of physical activity, and alcohol use. Creating awareness becomes especially important as only 12.5% of patients come for treatment in early stages of the disease. 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.”

The theme for the 25th MTNL Perfect Health Mela 2018 this year is Affordable Healthcare. As a part of the event, the Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) also launched a campaign on ‘Make in India for Cure in India’.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor-in-Chief of IJCP, said, “Make in India is imperative for Cure in India and it must be promoted to ensure that no one lacks access to timely treatment. This covers medical devices as well. The aim is to achieve the overall goal of affordable health care for all by making all critical and lifesaving medical devices available and accessible at affordable prices.”

Some prevention tips from HCFI.

Here are some lifestyle changes one can make to prevent cancer.

  • Avoid using tobacco in any form: Smoking has been linked to various types of cancer — including cancer of the lung, mouth, throat, larynx, pancreas, bladder, cervix and kidney. Chewing tobacco has been linked to cancer of the oral cavity and pancreas.
  • Consume a healthy diet: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is important to prevent the risk of cancer.
  • Maintain a healthy weight This can lower the risk of various types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, prostate, lung, colon and kidney. Physical activity every day is important to not just reduce weight but also keep fit.
  • Avoid risky habits: Habits such as unsafe sex and sharing needles can lead to infections that, in turn, might increase the risk of cancer.

Sonali Bendre diagnosed with cancer highlights the need for timely diagnosis

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Most cancers are preventable provided people undertake screening regularly

New Delhi, 4th July 2018: Veteran Bollywood actor Sonali Bendre on Wednesday revealed that she has been diagnosed with a high-grade cancer that has metastasized. With this, she falls in the category of other celebrities such as Manisha Koirala and Irrfan Khan who were also diagnosed with different types of this disease recently. While the latter has recuperated, Irrfan is still undergoing treatment. The need of the hour therefore is to create awareness on the need for timely health checks at every stage of life and taking preventive action.

There are about 2.5 million people living with cancer in India and over 7 lakh new cases get registered every year. Of all the various types of cancer, those of the oral cavity and lungs in males and cervix and breast in females account for about 50% of all related deaths in the country.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr K K Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “The news of Sonali Bendre being diagnosed with the disease only points to one fact: the importance of timely diagnosis and action. 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. There are four major types of clinical preventive care: immunizations, screening, behavioral counseling (lifestyle changes), and chemoprevention. Screening is the identification of an asymptomatic disease, unhealthy condition, or risk factor. Primary prevention are interventions to keep disease from occurring (e.g., immunization for communicable disease); secondary prevention as detection of early asymptomatic disease (e.g., screening); and tertiary prevention as reducing complications of disease (e.g., eye examinations in patients with diabetes). This nomenclature is applied differently by some other disciplines.”

Symptoms that should prompt a person to get tested for cancer include a triad of any symptom or sign that is unexpected, unexplained or appearing for the first time.

Sudden and unexplained weight loss; unexplained fever; unexplained extreme fatigue; unexplained recurrent pain in any part of the body; unexplained changes to the skin such as darkening, itching, and reddening; unexplained changes in bowel habits; unusual bleeding or discharge; unusual white spots on the tongue; and unexplained nagging cough or hoarseness all can be the examples.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Vice President of CMAAO, said, “Cancer, if detected early, can be treated at a much lower cost compared to that incurred when diagnosed at an advanced stage. The mortality rate is also lowered substantially if people report for screening when the earliest symptoms manifest. Unfortunately, nearly two-thirds of cancer cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage, reducing patients’ chances of cure and survival.”

Dr Aggarwal further said that in most metastatic cancers which have spread the source can be traced. Cancers of unknown primary or CUP accounts for up to 4 to 5 percent of all cancer diagnoses and can be classified into four categories: Adenocarcinoma, Squamous cell carcinoma, Neuroendocrine carcinoma (differentiated or poorly differentiated) and poorly differentiated cancer. Accurate prediction of the tissue of origin using immunohistochemical staining and/or gene expression profiling is now possible in most CUP patients, and site-specific therapy based on these predictions is replacing empiric chemotherapy as the new treatment standard.

Some tips from HCFI

Here are some ways in which one can diagnose and prevent the onset of cancer at an early stage.

  • 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.

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