Tag Archives: cancer

Do not ignore symptoms of tuberculosis! It’s curable.

World TB Day 2021: Tuberculosis kills more number of people in India every year than the lives COVID19 has claimed over the past 12 months? Today, all we need is a surge in our actions to reduce the TB burden, tells Dr Anshu Punjabi.  

New Delhi, March 24, 2021: In the past year, the COVID19 virus grabbed much of our attention. The collateral damage that it caused in one year is very unimaginable. But did you know, Tuberculosis (TB) kills a more significant number of people in India every year than the lives COVID19 has claimed over the past 12months?

Tuberculosis continues to inflict a large quantum of socioeconomic cost on our nation. Although TB has been curable and our government has made great strides to improve diagnosis and drug delivery mechanisms, our war with this deadly disease exists. All we need today is a surge in our actions to reduce the TB burden intensely. But how is that possible?

Well, the best approach to this is to sensitize people with the growing burden of TB and empower them enough to identify symptoms, report it early, undergo timely diagnosis, and complete adherence to treatment. So, first things first.

WHAT IS TUBERCULOSIS AND HOW DOES IT AFFECT US? TB is an infection caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium Tuberculosis and spreads through the air from one person to another when an infected person coughs, sneezes or laughs. Even though the bacteria travel easily, it’s not easy to be infected by TB. Most often, it’s spread between family members, close friends, and people who live or work together. TB most commonly affects the lungs, but it can affect other parts of the body as well, like lymph glands, abdomen, spine, joints, etc.

There are two kinds of tuberculosis (TB) infections — latent TB and active TB disease.

WHAT IS LATENT TB? In most healthy people, the body’s natural immune system kills the bacteria and there are no symptoms. Sometimes, the immune system cannot kill the bacteria but manages to prevent it from spreading in the body. You will not have any symptoms, but the bacteria will remain in your body – this is known as Latent TB. People with Latent TB are not infectious to others, and do not feel ill. It is usually happens to children. Sometimes, this dormant TB gets activated when the body’s immune system is extremely low, say in the case of HIV, cancer, diabetes, etc.

This may occur like a normal fever and can go unnoticed. In India, we do not treat latent TB, as most people would have been exposed to the bacteria at some point in time. Moreover, there is no good evidence that all these people will develop active TB disease in the future, or that treating Latent TB will prevent further reinfection.

WHAT IS AN ACTIVE TB? When the immune system is unable to kill or contain the bacteria, Active TB develops. The lungs’ Active TB disease is contagious, which means it can be spread from one person to another. It is most often spread through the air; these bacteria may enter the air when a person with TB disease of the Lungs or throat coughs. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and get infected. People get sick from the TB bacteria that are alive and active. 

SO, WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS?

  • Being in close contact with a person with Active Lung TB disease is highly risky
  • If you are in contact with any groups known for passing on TB, such as the homeless, injection drug users, and persons with HIV/AIDS
  • If you are living or working with people who are at high risk for TB, such as those in hospitals, homeless shelters, prisons, slums, or refugee camps 

MAJOR SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS THAT YOU SHOULDN’T IGNORE:

  • A cough that lasts two-three weeks or more
  • Pain in the chest, with cough or at rest     
  • Coughing up blood or thick mucous
  • Night sweats
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Weight loss
  • Not wanting to eat
  • Fever, mainly in the evening
  • Swollen neck lymph-gland(s)

The longer people wait, the TB disease worsens. Although the stigma associated with TB has gone down significantly, people need to be alert, aware, and responsible when it comes to identifying symptoms and getting treated early. TB is treatable and curable. Treatment for drug-sensitive TB is a combination of antibiotics for six months. People with drug-resistant TB will need more extended treatment with at least 5-6 drugs under expert supervision.

(Dr Anshu Punjabi is Consultant-Pulmonologist & Sleep Medicine Expert, Fortis Hospital, Mulund; Image by Wilfried Pohnke from Pixabay

Healthy eating habits can help reduce cancer risk

By Shweta Mahadik

It is no secret that a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of cancer in many ways. Research shows that many types of cancers are linked to lifestyle behaviours, including unhealthy eating patterns and a lack of physical activity. A healthy lifestyle can also help positively support treatment and recovery if you are diagnosed with it.

TO BEAT CANCER:

  • Include fruits and vegetables such as oranges, berries, pineapple, sweet lime, lemon, amla, broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, kale, cauliflower and brussels sprouts, etc. Add whole-grains such as whole wheat, oats/oatmeal, rye, barley, brown rice, millets, high-fibre foods, vegetables, and legumes (beans) to your plate.
  • Consume good amount of protein like cow’s milk and its products, legumes, pulses, whole grains, egg whites, poultry and fish.
  • Eat foods rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids like fish, especially oily fish (sardine, mackerel, tuna, salmon, herring, trout), almonds, walnuts, and flaxseeds. Prefer cooking methods such as broiling, boiling, stewing, grilling, baking, roasting rather than frying.

ENERGY-RICH FOODS THAT ARE A MUST-HAVE:

  • Antioxidants: Antioxidants protect cells from damage caused by free radicals known as ‘unstable molecules’. Some of the examples of antioxidants include Beta-Carotene, Lycopene, Vitamins C, E, and A, etc.
  • Omega 3 rich foods: Omega-3 PUFAs present in nuts, oilseeds, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, fish like salmon, tuna, and herring etc., plays an essential role in cell signalling and in the cell structure and fluidity of membranes. They participate in the resolution of inflammation and have anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive effects
  • Garlic: Some clinical studies found that regular consumption of garlic in our diet helps with DNA repair, slow the growth of cancer cells and decrease inflammation as garlic is rich in Allicin i.e. soluble Allyl Sulphur compounds which is responsible for many cancer-fighting properties. Several functional foods showed anti-cancer activity via scavenging free radicals e.g., garlic, broccoli, green tea, soybean, tomato, carrot, cabbage, onion, cauliflower, red beets, cranberries, cocoa, blackberry, blueberry, red grapes, prunes and citrus fruits.
  • Bitter melon: Bitter melon is a widely consumed vegetable all over the world that comprises of several bioactive components such as Polyphenols, Flavonoids & Saponins, and has been reported to possess anti-cancer potential.
  • Wheat Bran: Wheat Bran is abundant in a variety of healthy phytochemicals such as phenolics, flavonoids, glucans and pigments and has been observed to evince noticeable anti-cancer activity.

Apart from diet, it is important that cancer patients maintain a healthy weight, increase physical activity, make healthy food choices, and stay happy in mind and body.

(Shweta Mahadik is Dietitian, Fortis Hospital, Kalyan)