Blood cancer is a common type of cancer that generally affects people of all age groups. According to a report by WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, India has the third-highest number of haematological cancers, popularly referred as blood cancer. There was a time when cancer was incurable, but over the years, the scenario has changed thanks to the medical technology which has made treatments available that guarantee up to 90 per cent survival chances.
September marks Blood Cancer Awareness Month, during which various efforts are made by societies fighting cancer to spread awareness about the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of the genetic disease. “Early diagnosis in cancer always helps. When people are aware of the disease and diagnose it on time, better treatment, which gives better results, can be provided,” said Dr Vikas Goswami, senior consultant, medical oncologist, Max Hospital, Vaishali.
What is blood cancer?
Blood cancer are caused by faults in the DNA. It happens when something goes wrong with the development of blood cells and leads to improper functioning of cells. There are three types of blood cancers — leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma. Leukaemia occurs when the white blood cells (leukocytes) become cancerous, lymphoma when lymphocytes become cancerous, and myeloma when the plasma cells become cancerous.
“Blood cancer patients usually become quite sick and may experience unexplained fever often accompanied with chills, fatigue and weakness, night sweats, pain in the bones and joints of the body, headaches and swollen lymph nodes. Immunity decreases and one becomes susceptible to infections as well. Cancer also affects the rate of blood clotting, as a result, small cuts or injuries will tend to bleed for a longer period of time. One may also experience unusual bruising, bleeding of the gums, and blood in stool as well as heavy periods in case of women,” explained Dr Goswami.
Other symptoms include weight loss, undue sweating disproportionate to climate and itching. The doctor says, it is advisable to go for blood tests if such changes are seen in the body.
Talking about the chances of curing blood cancers, Dr Goswami says that acute lymphoblastic leukaemia or pediatric leukaemia is almost 90 per cent curable, lymphoma in adults is 80-90 per cent curable and acute leukaemia in adults can be 40-50 per cent curable. “However, many of the myeloma cases are incurable. The treatment for blood cancer mostly depends on the kind of cancer, age of the patient and how the condition has progressed. On the basis of these factors, doctors may suggest chemotherapy, supportive care, stem cell transplantation etc,” he said.
Here are some ways to combat cancer by changing your diet:
1. Target plant-based diets. Eat generous amounts of vegetables and moderate amounts of fruits and try including vegetables, salads, beans and cereals in your diet.
2. Consume omega-3 fatty acids either through foods or supplements. These have anti-cancer properties.
3. Eat yogurt as it contains good bacteria that produces metabolites which is known to prevent cancer in their gut and were also helps better metabolise fats, which could help lower the risk of cancer.
4. Reduce meat consumption as meat lacks fiber and other nutrients that have been shown to have cancer-protective properties. Meat has fat in abundance, which is often of very high levels of saturated fat.
5. Try cancer fighting foods like ginger, garlic, onion, turmeric and coriander.
6. Stay hydrated. No matter what always stay hydrated even if you are not feeling thirsty. Keep your fluid level high; drink water throughout the day.
7. Wash your veggies and fruits by using vinegar and salt. Take a cup of white vinegar and three cups of water, add a spoon of baking soda and keep in a spray can. This is useful in removing wax and bacteria, especially from ‘over-glossy’ products such as apples which are usually wax coated these days.