Wednesday, 26 February 2014


Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affect the lungs. Tuberculosis is curable and preventable.

TB is spread from person to person through the air. When people with lung TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air. A person needs to inhale only a few of these germs to become infected.

About one-third of the world's population has latent TB, which means people have been infected by TB bacteria but are not (yet) ill with disease and cannot transmit the disease.

People infected with TB bacteria have a lifetime risk of falling ill with TB of 10%. However persons with compromised immune systems, such as people living with HIV, malnutrition or diabetes, or people who use tobacco, have a much higher risk of falling ill.

When a person develops active TB (disease), the symptoms (cough, fever, night sweats, weight loss etc.) may be mild for many months. This can lead to delays in seeking care, and results in transmission of the bacteria to others. People ill with TB can infect up to 10-15 other people through close contact over the course of a year. Without proper treatment up to two thirds of people ill with TB will die.

Key facts

  • Tuberculosis (TB) is second only to HIV/AIDS as the greatest killer worldwide due to a single infectious agent.
  • In 2012, 8.6 million people fell ill with TB and 1.3 million died from TB.
  • Over 95% of TB deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, and it is among the top three causes of death for women aged 15 to 44.
  • In 2012, an estimated 530 000 children became ill with TB and 74 000 HIV-negative children died of TB.
  • TB is a leading killer of people living with HIV causing one quarter of all deaths.
  • Multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) is present in virtually all countries surveyed.
  • The estimated number of people falling ill with tuberculosis each year is declining, although very slowly, which means that the world is on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goal to reverse the spread of TB by 2015.
  • The TB death rate dropped 45% between 1990 and 2012.
  • An estimated 22 million lives saved through use of DOTS and the Stop TB Strategy recommended by WHO.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

What Is Cancer Screening?

Culled from (National Institute of Cancer)

Cancer screening is looking for cancer before a person has any symptoms.
Screening tests can help find cancer at an early stage, before symptoms appear. When abnormal tissue or cancer is found early, it may be easier to treat or cure. By the time symptoms appear, the cancer may have grown and spread. This can make the cancer harder to treat or cure.
It is important to remember that when your doctor suggests a screening test, it does not always mean he or she thinks you have cancer. Screening tests are done when you have no cancer symptoms.
There are different kinds of screening tests.
Screening tests include the following:
  • Physical exam and history: An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient’s health habits and past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.
  • Laboratory tests: Medical procedures that test samples of tissue, blood, urine, or other substances in the body.
  • Imaging procedures: Procedures that make pictures of areas inside the body.
  • Genetic tests: Tests that look for certain gene mutations (changes) that are linked to some types of cancer.
Screening tests have risks.
Not all screening tests are helpful and most have risks. It is important to know the risks of the test and whether it has been proven to decrease the chance of dying from cancer.
Some screening tests can cause serious problems.
Some screening procedures can cause bleeding or other problems. For example, colon cancer screening with sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy can cause tears in the lining of the colon.
False-positive test results are possible.
Screening test results may appear to be abnormal even though there is no cancer. A false-positive test result (one that shows there is cancer when there really isn't) can cause anxiety and is usually followed by more tests and procedures, which also have risks.
False-negative test results are possible.
Screening test results may appear to be normal even though there is cancer. A person who receives a false-negative test result (one that shows there is no cancer when there really is) may delay seeking medical care even if there are symptoms.
Finding the cancer may not improve the person's health or help the person live longer.
Some cancers never cause symptoms or become life-threatening, but if found by a screening test, the cancer may be treated. There is no way to know if treating the cancer would help the person live longer than if no treatment were given. Also, treatments for cancer have side effects.
For some cancers, finding and treating the cancer early does not improve the chance of a cure or help the person live longer.
The PDQ cancer screening summaries are written to help people learn about screening tests.
Scientists study screening tests to find those with the fewest risks and most benefits. The PDQ cancer screening summaries are based on the results of these studies and other scientific information about cancer risk and screening tests. The summaries are written to give readers the most current information about standard screening tests and tests that are being studied in clinical trials.
It can be hard to make decisions about screening tests. Before having any screening test, you may want to discuss the test with your doctor.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Cancer Myths

Culled from

A vast amount of information about cancer is available online and through other sources. Unfortunately, some of it can be misleading or inaccurate. Below you will find the truth behind some of the most common cancer myths and misconceptions. You can also check with your doctor, nurse, or other member of your health care team to verify the accuracy of anything you hear or read.
Myths about developing cancer
MYTH: Cancer is contagious.
No cancer is contagious (capable of spreading from person to person through contact). However, some cancers are caused by viruses. The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted disease that increases the risk of developing cervical, anal, and some types of head and neck cancers. Other viruses, such as hepatitis B and hepatitis C, which are transmitted by infected intravenous needles and sexual activity, increase the risk of developing liver cancer.
MYTH: You don’t need to worry about cancer if no one in your family has had it.
Only 5% to 10% of cancers are hereditary (passed down by a family member). The majority of cancers are caused by genetic changes that occur throughout a person’s lifetime. These changes, or mutations, are caused by factors such as tobacco use, too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, and exposure to certain chemicals. However, the likelihood that a single mutation will cause cancer is small. That is one reason why cancer is more common in older people—a number of mutations have had the chance to build up throughout their life. Learn more about risk factors and prevention.
MYTH: If you have a family history of cancer, you will get it too; there’s nothing you can do about it.
Although having a family history of cancer increases your risk of developing the disease, it is not a definite prediction of your future health. In fact, an estimated 4 out of 10 cancers can be prevented by making simple lifestyle changes, such as eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, limiting alcoholic beverages, and avoiding tobacco products. Additionally, doctors may recommend that some people who have inherited a genetic mutation that puts them at high risk for cancer have surgery or take medication, known as prophylactic treatment, to further reduce the chance that cancer will develop. Learn more about cancer genetics and hereditary cancer-related syndromes.
MYTH: Hair dyes and antiperspirants can cause cancer.
To date, there is no conclusive scientific evidence that these items increase the risk of developing cancer. Some studies have suggested that hair dyes used before 1980 could be linked to an increased risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma, but the unsafe chemicals have since been removed from hair dye products. There is limited and inconsistent evidence that hair dye can increase the risk of other types of cancer. Additionally, there is some evidence that the skin may absorb the aluminum-based compounds that act as the active ingredient in antiperspirants. These compounds are known to cause hormonal changes, which has led some to believe that antiperspirants could contribute to the development of breast cancer. However, there is no consistent evidence to support this claim.
Myths about coping with cancer
MYTH: It is sometimes easier to remain unaware that you have cancer.
You should not ignore the symptoms or signs of cancer, such as a breast lump or an abnormal-looking mole. Although the thought of having cancer is frightening, talking with your doctor and getting a diagnosis will give you the power to make informed choices and seek the best possible care. Because treatment is typically more effective during the early stages of cancer, being diagnosed early improves the likelihood of survival.
MYTH: Positive thinking will cure cancer.
Although a positive attitude may improve your quality of life during cancer treatment, there is no scientific evidence that it can cure cancer. Placing such importance on attitude may lead to unnecessary guilt and disappointment if, for reasons beyond your control, your health does not improve.
MYTH: Cancer loves sugar.
Many people with cancer wonder if they should stop eating sugar because they have heard sugar feeds cancer growth. However, there is no conclusive evidence that proves eating sugar will make cancer grow and spread more quickly. All cells in the body, both healthy cells and cancer cells, depend on sugar (glucose) to grow and function. However, providing cancer cells with sugar won't speed up their growth, just as cutting out sugar completely won’t slow down their growth. This doesn’t mean you should eat a high sugar diet, though. Consuming too many calories from sugar has been linked to weight gain, obesity, and diabetes, which increase the risk of developing cancer and other diseases. Learn more about the relationship between diet and cancer.
MYTH: If you are diagnosed with cancer, you will probably die.
Cancer is not a death sentence. Advances in cancer detection and treatment have increased survival rates for most common types of cancer. In fact, more than 60% of people with cancer survive five years or more after their initial diagnosis. Learn more about cancer survivorship.
MYTH: Cancer is always painful.
Although pain is one of the most common side effects of cancer and its treatment, up to 95% of cancer pain can be successfully treated with medications and other pain management techniques. However, in order to benefit from these pain-relief strategies, you must share your symptoms with a member of your health care team. Learn more about managing and treating cancer pain.
Myths about cancer treatments
MYTH: Drug companies, the government, and the medical establishment are hiding a cure for cancer.
The medical community is not withholding a miracle treatment. The fact is, there will not be a single cure for cancer. Hundreds of types of cancer exist, and they respond differently to various types of treatment. In the past five years, research has shown that even common cancers like breast cancer and lung cancer contain many more genetic changes than originally thought, which makes it even more challenging to come up with effective treatments. There is still much to learn, which is why clinical trials continue to be essential for making progress in preventing, diagnosing, and treating cancer.
MYTH: Some people are too old for cancer treatment.
There is no age limit for cancer treatment. People with cancer should receive the treatment that is best suited to their condition, regardless of age. Many older patients respond as well to cancer treatments as younger patients. However, some older adults may have other illnesses that limit the use of specific treatments, so older adults with cancer are encouraged to talk with their doctor about the best approach for managing their disease. Read more about cancer treatment for older adults.
MYTH: Cancer treatment is usually worse than the disease.
Although cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy are known to cause side effects that can be unpleasant and sometimes serious, recent advances have resulted in many chemotherapy drugs and radiation treatments that are much better tolerated than in the past. As a result, symptoms like severe nausea and vomiting, hair loss, and tissue damage are much less common these days; however, managing side effects remains an important part of cancer care. This approach, called palliative or supportive care, can help a person at any stage of illness. In fact, people who receive both treatment for the cancer and treatment to ease side effects at the same time often have less severe symptoms, better quality of life, and report they are more satisfied with treatment. Learn more about palliative care.

MYTH: People being treated for cancer can’t stay at home, work, or participate in their usual activities.

Most people living with cancer are treated in their home community on an outpatient basis (with periodic appointments at a hospital or clinic rather than an overnight stay at a hospital) and often continue with some or all of their day-to-day activities. Many people can work part-time or full-time, care for their children, and attend social activities, despite undergoing cancer treatment.
MYTH: Everyone with cancer has to be treated.
If a cancer is found at an early stage, is growing slowly, and your doctor feels treating the cancer would cause more discomfort than the disease, your doctor may recommend active surveillance (also known as watchful waiting). During active surveillance, the cancer is monitored closely. If it starts growing or begins causing symptoms, starting treatment is usually an option.
In other situations, such as advanced cancer, emotional, social, and spiritual factors may play as much of a role as physical concerns when making treatment decisions. Ultimately it is up to the patient to decide whether he or she wants to be treated. However, these decisions should be made after talking with a doctor about the potential risks and benefits of each treatment option. Even if a person decides not to have disease-directed treatment, the health care team can still provide palliative/supportive care to help reduce symptoms, improve quality of life, and support the patient and his or her family.
MYTH: If I’m not offered all of the tests, procedures, and treatments available, I am not getting the best cancer care.
Not every test, treatment, or procedure is right for every person. You and your doctor should discuss which ones will increase your chance of recovering and help you maintain the best quality of life and which ones could increase your risk of side effects and lead to unnecessary costs. If you decide after this discussion that you need more information before making treatment decisions, it may be helpful to seek a second opinion. Learn more about Choosing Wisely®.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

How cancer be prevented

Cancers that are closely linked to certain behaviors are the easiest to prevent. For example, choosing not to smoke tobacco or drink alcohol significantly lower the risk of several types of cancer - most notably lung, throat, mouth, and liver cancer. Even if you are a current tobacco user, quitting can still greatly reduce your chances of getting cancer.

Skin cancer can be prevented by staying in the shade, protecting yourself with a hat and shirt when in the sun, and using sunscreen. Diet is also an important part of cancer prevention since what we eat has been linked to the disease. Physicians recommend diets that are low in fat and rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains.

Certain vaccinations have been associated with the prevention of some cancers. For example, many women receive a vaccination for the human papillomavirus because of the virus's relationship with cervical cancer. Hepatitis B vaccines prevent the hepatitis B virus, which can cause liver cancer.

Some cancer prevention is based on systematic screening in order to detect small irregularities or tumors as early as possible even if there are no clear symptoms present. Breast self-examination, mammograms, testicular self-examination, and Pap smears are common screening methods for various cancers.

Researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago reported in the journal Circulation that the 7 steps recommended for protection against heart disease can also reduce the risk of developing cancer,. They include being physically active, eating a healthy diet, controlling cholesterol, managing blood pressure, reducing blood sugar and not smoking.


Wednesday, 22 January 2014

What are the symptoms of cancer?


Cancer symptoms are quite varied and depend on where the cancer is located, where it has spread, and how big the tumor is. Some cancers can be felt or seen through the skin - a lump on the breast or testicle can be an indicator of cancer in those locations. Skin cancer (melanoma) is often noted by a change in a wart or mole on the skin. Some oral cancers present white patches inside the mouth or white spots on the tongue.
Other cancers have symptoms that are less physically apparent. Some brain tumors tend to present symptoms early in the disease as they affect important cognitive functions. Pancreas cancers are usually too small to cause symptoms until they cause pain by pushing against nearby nerves or interfere with liver function to cause a yellowing of the skin and eyes called jaundice. Symptoms also can be created as a tumor grows and pushes against organs and blood vessels. For example, colon cancers lead to symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, and changes in stool size. Bladder or prostate cancers cause changes in bladder function such as more frequent or infrequent urination.
As cancer cells use the body's energy and interfere with normal hormone function, it is possible to present symptoms such as fever, fatigue, excessive sweating, anemia, and unexplained weight loss. However, these symptoms are common in several other maladies as well. For example, coughing and hoarseness can point to lung or throat cancer as well as several other conditions.
When cancer spreads, or metastasizes, additional symptoms can present themselves in the newly affected area. Swollen or enlarged lymph nodes are common and likely to be present early. If cancer spreads to the brain, patients may experience vertigo, headaches, or seizures. Spreading to the lungs may cause coughing and shortness of breath. In addition, the liver may become enlarged and cause jaundice and bones can become painful, brittle, and break easily. Symptoms of metastasis ultimately depend on the location to which the cancer has spread.

Factors That are Known to Increase the Risk of Cance

1. Cigarette Smoking and Tobacco Use

Tobacco use is strongly linked to an increased risk for many kinds of cancer. Smoking cigarettes is the leading cause of the following types of cancer:


Not smoking or quitting smoking lowers the risk of getting cancer and dying from cancer. Scientists believe that cigarette smoking causes about 30% of all cancer deaths in the United States.

Two vaccines to prevent infection by cancer-causing agents have already been developed and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). One is a vaccine to prevent infection with hepatitis B virus. The other protects against infection with strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause cervical cancer. Scientists continue to work on vaccines against infections that cause cancer.

3. Radiation
Being exposed to radiation is a known cause of cancer. There are two main types of radiation linked with an increased risk for cancer:

Scientists believe that ionizing radiation causes leukemia, thyroid cancer, and breast cancer in women. Ionizing radiation may also be linked to myeloma and cancers of the lung, stomach, colon, esophagus, bladder, and ovary. Being exposed to radiation from diagnostic x-rays increases the risk of cancer in patients and x-ray technicians.
The growing use of CT scans over the last 20 years has increased exposure to ionizing radiation. The risk of cancer also increases with the number of CT scans a patient has and the radiation dose used each time.

4. Immunosuppressive Medicines
Immunosuppressive medicines are linked to an increased risk of cancer. These medicines lower the body’s ability to stop cancer from forming. For example, immunosuppressive medicines may be used to keep a patient from rejecting an organ transplant.
Factors That May Affect the Risk of Cancer
The foods that you eat on a regular basis make up your diet. Diet is being studied as a risk factor for cancer. It is hard to study the effects of diet on cancer because a person’s diet includes foods that may protect against cancer and foods that may increase the risk of cancer.
It is also hard for people who take part in the studies to keep track of what they eat over a long period of time. This may explain why studies have different results about how diet affects the risk of cancer.
Some studies show that fruits and nonstarchy vegetables may protect against cancers of the mouth, esophagus, and stomach. Fruits may also protect against lung cancer.
Some studies have shown that a diet high in fat, proteins, calories, and red meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer, but other studies have not shown this.
It is not known if a diet low in fat and high in fiber, fruits, and vegetables lowers the risk of colorectal cancer.

5. Alcohol
Studies have shown that drinking alcohol is linked to an increased risk of the following types of cancers:

Drinking alcohol may also increase the risk of liver cancer and female colorectal cancer.

6. Physical Activity
Studies show that people who are physically active have a lower risk of certain cancers than those who are not. It is not known if physical activity itself is the reason for this.
Studies show a strong link between physical activity and a lower risk of colorectal cancer. Some studies show that physical activity protects against postmenopausal breast cancer and endometrial cancer.

7. Obesity
Studies show that obesity is linked to a higher risk of the following types of cancer:

  • Postmenopausal breast cancer.
  • Colorectal cancer.
  • Endometrial cancer.
  • Esophageal cancer.
  • Kidney cancer.
  • Pancreatic cancer.
Some studies show that obesity is also a risk factor for cancer of the gallbladder.
It is not known if losing weight lowers the risk of cancers that have been linked to obesity.

8. Environmental Risk Factors
Being exposed to chemicals and other substances in the environment has been linked to some cancers:

  • Links between air pollution and cancer risk have been found. These include links between lung cancer and secondhand tobacco smoke, outdoor air pollution, and asbestos.
  • Drinking water that contains a large amount of arsenic has been linked to skin, bladder, and lung cancers.
Studies have been done to see if pesticides and other pollutants increase the risk of cancer. The results of those studies have been unclear because other factors can change the results of the studies.