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World Cancer Day: Is heart a casualty after cancer survival?

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New Delhi, Feb 4: While cancer has almost become one among the lifestyle diseases today, advances in treatment have ensured a growing number of survivors. But, are these survivors living a healthy life going ahead? The answer seems to be no. Instead, they are more likely to die from heart diseases.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), from 14 million cancer cases recorded worldwide in 2012, it is set to rise to 24 million by 2020.

Despite this, the overall five-year survival rates for most cancers have improved — sometimes significantly — since 2000, a study published last week in journal The Lancet revealed.

However, the American Heart Association in a scientific statement this week, stated that common breast cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation may be increasing the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, including heart failure.

The statement, published in the journal Circulation, noted that during cancer treatments, patients should pay attention not only to their breast health, but also to their general health, including their heart.

Taking strong cognisance of the statement, Indian doctors have advised the fraternity to use precautionary measures while prescribing such treatment to patients.

“There are chemotherapy drugs that are known to cause cardiac damage and so the doctors and the patients should be aware of the percentage of damage. Precautions include taking sensitive heart testing in the form of echocardiogram or neubauer testing before, during and after the chemotherapy,” Ramesh Sarin, Senior Consultant, Surgical Oncology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital in New Delhi, told IANS.

Targeted therapies for breast cancers like HER-2 could cause weakening of the heart muscle, a condition known as heart failure. Other therapies could also affect the heart arteries and cause the development of coronary artery disease or blockages.

Besides, the chemotherapy affects every area of the body — including the reproductive organs.

“The residue of the effects of the chemotherapy remains long after a patient has stopped treatment and continues to cause extensive damage to the body — especially internal organs, including reproductive organs,” Sweta Gupta, Clinical Director and Senior Consultant (Fertility Solutions), Medicover Fertility in Gurugram, told IANS.

The fertility expert advised patients to keep a gap of at least two years before planning a baby to avoid any ill effects of the strong cancer treatment drugs on the baby.

But if the cancer patient is young and does not have children yet, fertility preservation before beginning the chemotherapy may help.

Apart from breast cancer survivors, the risk of heart failure also extends to patients with other cancers — especially women after menopause. There is also an increased risk in those receiving drugs with proven cardiotoxicity and people with previous history of cardiac disorders.

“The risk applies to all cancers in and around the thoracic cavity like cancers of the lung, oesophagus (food pipe), mediastinal tumours and any tumour close to the heart receiving radiation therapy as a part of their treatment,” Sudarsan De, Director and Coordinator, Radiation Oncology Department, Jaypee Hospital, Noida, told IANS.

However, the treatment should not be compromised because of the fear of toxicity. It should not deter or scare patients from undergoing the cancer treatment, instead allow them to make informed decisions with their doctor on the best option available, the doctors said.

“We should not compromise the treatment because of the fear of toxicity because the same treatment can be delivered with proper shielding and precautionary measures protecting the heart,” said B.S. Ajaikumar, oncologist and Chairman & CEO, HCG Hospital, Bengaluru.

Diagnosing latent and overt cardiac disorders before treatment and correcting them may play a role. People with pre-existing cardiac damage or those who are at a higher risk, should be seen jointly with a cardiologist in addition to the oncologist.

“During surgery, longer operative timings are to be avoided. Avoiding cardiotoxic drugs and large infusions of fluid during chemotherapy and using appropriate and modern radiation techniques (IMRT, IGRT) are the other ways,” De said.

There are drugs that can be given to prevent cardiac damage to some extent. So, it should be a joint, multi-disciplinary approach to treat patients with already existing cardiac problems, the experts suggested.

The most common risk factors for cancer include ageing, tobacco use, sun exposure, radiation exposure, chemicals and other substances, some viruses and bacteria, certain hormones, family history of cancer, alcohol abuse, poor diet, lack of physical activity, or being overweight.

According to the National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research, an estimated 2.5 million people in India live with cancer. Every year, over seven lakh new cancer patients are added to the list of the dreaded disease.

The Indian Council of Medical Research has said that new cancer cases or its incidence in India is estimated to grow by 25 per cent by 2020.

IANS

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Natural ways to boost immunity in children

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New Delhi, Jan 21: It is natural for parents to protect their children from any harm, including the endless array of germs they are exposed to every day.

As children grow up, they are continuously exposed to various germs, especially in places such as daycare centres and preschool. Children with low immunity are highly susceptible to various types of infections. The high incidence of infections has led to an increased and inappropriate use of antibiotics, which has further resulted in antimicrobial resistance.

Antimicrobial resistance, a widespread problem, takes places when microbes build resistance against the medications intended to kill them due to overuse. It is one of the world’s most pressing public health problems. The best way to tackle this is to build a strong immunity, which naturally protects your child from infections. Dr. Rajesh Kumawat, Head – Medical Services & Clinical Development, The Himalaya Drug Company, shares a few tips that can help boost your child’s immunity.

Healthy Diet

A healthy diet that comprises all fundamental components like proteins, minerals, vitamins, micronutrients and unsaturated fats in optimum quantity, helps build the immunity required to fight against various infections or diseases in children. Citrus fruits, carrots, green leafy vegetables, beans, strawberry, yogurt, garlic, and ginger help build immunity with their immunity-boosting properties.

Adequate Sleep

Sleep deprivation suppresses the functionality of the immune system, which makes children susceptible to infections. Adequate sleep is an absolute necessity to rejuvenate the body. Newborns need up to 18 hours of sleep a day, toddlers require 12 to 13 hours, and preschoolers need about 10 hours of sleep.

Hygiene

Maintaining hand hygiene before and after each meal, after playtime, handling pets, blowing the nose, using the restroom and arriving home from daycare helps prevent infections in children.

Herbal Solutions

Despite taking proper care, children’s immunity may be affected. Consumption of herbal dietary supplements like Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia), Amalaki (Emblica officinalis), Yashtimadhu (Glycyrrhiza glabra), and Guggulu (Balsamodendron mukul) can help children stay healthier as they help build immunity.

“Naturally obtained supplements strengthen the immune system. Herbs like Guduchi, Yashti Madhu, and Guggulu are natural sources of antioxidants. The antiviral property of Yashtimadhu also helps manage asthma, bronchitis, and chronic cough. The anti-inflammatory property of Guggulu helps reduce inflammation,” Dr. Kumawat added.

“Naturally obtained supplements strengthen the immune system. Herbs like Guduchi, Yashti Madhu, and Guggulu are natural sources of antioxidants. The antiviral property of Yashtimadhu also helps manage asthma, bronchitis, and chronic cough. The anti-inflammatory property of Guggulu helps reduce inflammation,” Dr. Kumawat added.

A combination of herbs may be a safe and effective adjuvant to antimicrobials in the management of recurrent infections. When co-prescribed with antibiotics, herbs may
have a role in faster recovery, reduces the duration and cost of therapy, besides preventing reinfections.

IANS

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Anti-inflammatory drugs may put you at heart attack risk

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If you have been hit by the winter cold and are thinking about taking medicines that relieve your aches, pains and congestion, be careful. Those may also put your heart at risk, the American Heart Association has warned.

A study has showed that both decongestants and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), found in many cold medicines, were listed as medications that could increase blood pressure.

People who used NSAIDs while sick were more than three times as likely to have a heart attack within a week compared with the same time period about a year earlier when participants were neither sick nor taking an NSAID.

“People with uncontrolled high blood pressure or heart disease should avoid taking oral decongestants. And for the general population or someone with low cardiovascular risk, they should use them with the guidance of a health care provider,” said Sondra DePalma, from the University of Pittsburgh in the US.

Decongestants like pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine constrict blood vessels. They allow less fluid into your sinuses, “which dries you up”, said Erin Michos, associate director of preventive cardiology at the Johns Hopkins Univerity’s Ciccarone Center in Baltimore.

The biggest concerns are for people who have had a heart attack or stroke, or have heart failure or uncontrolled high blood pressure, Michos said, in the paper published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Importantly, healthy people might also be at risk.

For the study, researchers looked at nearly 10,000 people with respiratory infections who were hospitalised for heart attacks.

Participants were 72 years old on average at the time of their heart attacks and many had cardiovascular risk factors, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

People who are sick should use both classes of medications — decongestants and NSAIDs — judiciously and understand the potential side effects.

In addition, decongestants should not be taken longer than seven days before consulting with a healthcare provider, DePalma said.

One should also rest and drink plenty of fluids if symptoms are mild or moderate, DePalma noted.

IANS

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What is to be blamed for childhood cancer?

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Representative Image , Image Credit : J Pat Carter/AP

A team of researchers has thrown light on the community beliefs about what causes cancer in children, an area which remains understudied, finds a latest research.

“Few childhood cancers are attributed to genetics or environmental factors, so when children are diagnosed with cancer, families often wonder ‘why me/why us’?” said lead author Janine Vetsch, postdoctoral research candidate from UNSW Sydney in Australia.

For the study, the team examined the beliefs of more than 600 participants — parents and childhood cancer survivors — about the causes of childhood cancer, and compared them with beliefs of 510 members of the general population.

Findings, published in Acta Oncologica, revealed that more than seven out of 10 childhood cancer survivors and survivors’ parents believed that chance or bad luck caused the cancer.

This led to most parents and survivors seem to understand that there is nothing they could have done to prevent the cancer, according to Vetsch.

However, around one in five families did believe that environmental factors and genetics played a role, despite only limited available scientific evidence, results further showed.

“It looks like healthcare professionals are successfully helping most families arrive at that view,” said Vetsch.

Such views could lead to stigma. Hence, it is important to increase community knowledge of childhood cancer causes in general.

There is a need to encourage doctors to talk about the causes with affected families to address unhelpful misconceptions,” Vetsch suggested.

IANS

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