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To eat or not to eat: healthy festive indulgences

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The pandemic sure consumed better parts of the year but it certainly hasn’t taken away our festive spirit. As we enter the first few weeks of October, the air is abuzz with the hope of grand festivities just around the corner. At the heart of these festivities is what brings most of us together – food. Playing a significant role in celebrating traditions and culture as a family, food is a catalyst for good times. From sweet treats to savoury delicacies, nothing beats a holiday feast. However, while these special occasions maybe your onetime annual pass for a little indulgence, it shouldn’t take away all the efforts you’ve made throughout the year to eat well. 

While we anticipate with bated breath the arrival of our favourite festivals, let’s be mindful of the many ways we can participate in the celebrations while also paying attention to our health. 

Here are a few simple tips: 

1. Do not skip meals. It’s a common observation of skipping a meal after you’ve over-indulged in the previous one. This will lead to overeating the next day. Rather keep the next meal low in carbohydrates and high in fibre and protein.

 2. Snack on fruits. A regular eating schedule might get disrupted during festivals and so whenever one finds time in between, fresh fruits should always be the choice! 

3. Choose unsalted nuts and dry fruits over salted ones. If it’s for gifting or your consumption during festivals, be cautious to avoid sodium loaded flavoured nuts.

 4. Avoiding unnecessary tea/coffee/drinks. If you are full or not up for it, just say no to that sugary, empty-calorie drink!

 5. Start and end your day with warm water and a teaspoon of fibre-rich seeds such as flaxseeds or chia seeds.

 6. Follow the one plate rule. Fill your plate once with what you wish to eat and avoid second helping in your plate. This ensures portion control. 

7. Find time to exercise. Walk while you talk, stand more, sit less and be physically active. 

Swap those unhealthy food preparations with some healthy alternatives: 

  •  Instead of frying, bake or steam 
  •  Instead of sugar, add jaggery 
  • Instead of roasting in fat, try dry roasting 
  •  Replace refined flour for whole wheat flour 
  •  Add natural sweeteners like dates, raisins and cashews 

Replace market bought food with homemade food For the sweet-tooth fix opt for healthier options:

  •   Kheer instead of mawa barfi 
  •  Rawa and ghee based mithai instead of ones made with all-purpose flour (maida)
  •   A filling of dates and raisins instead of sugar 
  •  Natural food colours instead of artificial colours For those looking forward to savoury feasts:   Always serve fresh salad in meals 
  •  Keep the menu small to avoid excess calorie consumption
  •   Have chhole, chana masala, rajma, lentils to ensure protein in meals
  •   Cook vegetables in the least amount of fat – one teaspoon per dish should be a rule of thumb
  •   Choose chapatis over puris or bhature

  Choose steamed rice over fried rice l Choose fresh mint coriander chutney over readymade pickles Remember you are what you eat, so a little mindfulness goes a long way. A simple rule to remember while choosing food: ‘Each morsel should be nourishing to the soul and mind’. 

The writer is a clinical nutritionist, dietitian, lifestyle therapist, columnist, health speaker and founder of NutriAl Diet Clinic

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Health & Wellness

WHY PARENTS SHOULD PUT FLU VACCINE ON THEIR CHECKLIST

Dr Prakash Desai

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Have you, as a parent, thought about vaccines your child might need? Making your child get flu shots every year is a great idea, but even more this year as the Covid-19 virus continues to spread. Many parents don’t realise it, but the flu can be a very serious illness and the highest risk group are children up to the age of 5 years and above, senior citizens and can lead to long term health conditions. It is even more important to protect your child from viruses like influenza by giving them an annual flu shot. Vaccinating children not only prevents them from catching flu, it also prevents them from spreading it. 

As a paediatrician and neonatologist, I often come across parents who ask many questions like “my child had the flu vaccination last year” Do they need another one this year? Yes; flu viruses change every year so the vaccine may be updated. For this reason, we recommend that your child is vaccinated against flu again this year, even if vaccinated last year. In young children, flu can cause pneumonia (lung infection) and bronchiolitis (infection of the tiny airways that lead to the lungs causing wheezing and difficulty breathing) and sometimes the resulting high fever can lead to febrile fits. 

Below are some Q&A’s which will help you in deciding to consider vaccinating your child with flu vaccine if not done already? 

Influenza or flu is a respiratory infection caused by an influenza virus. In India, limited influenza activity is usually seen throughout the year with a clear peaking during the changing weather seasons and mostly during the rainy season all over the country. Parents need to understand, Influenza isn’t just in schools — it’s also out in our communities, in stores and in parks and in individuals around you. It’s still very important for kids to get vaccinated to protect themselves and everybody else around them from influenza. Considering the seriousness of influenza, and the susceptibility of young kids to this illness, doctors and specialists have all been motivating parents to get the seasonal influenza vaccinations to be better equipped for the flu seasons.

Always remember from age 4 through 6, your child needs additional doses of some vaccines, as well as a flu vaccine every year. If your child has missed any vaccines, work with your doctor to make sure he or she gets them on time. 

How does influenza spread?

Influenza viruses are found in the nose and throat. Children can catch influenza from siblings, parents, other family members, playmates or caregivers.

Germs usually spread in one of three ways:

• Direct contact — such as touching or holding hands with an infected person. 

• Indirect contact means touching something a toy, doorknob or a used tissue, that has been touched by an infected person and now has germs on it and can stay on surfaces for many hours. 

• Some germs spread through the air via droplets when a person coughs or sneezes.

How do I know if my child has influenza?

The flu strikes more quickly than a cold, and makes children feel worse typical influenza symptoms include:

• sudden fever and chills 

• headache or muscle aches,

• extreme fatigue

• dry cough and sore throat and,

• loss of appetite

What are the benefits of the vaccine? 

Having the vaccine will help protect your child from what can be a very nasty illness in children. Children under the age of 5 years have the highest rate of hospital admissions due to flu. It will reduce the chance of others in your family, who could be at greater risk from flu, such as grandparents or those with long term health conditions, getting flu from your child. 

Does taking the flu vaccine stop you from getting the flu?

Flu illness can be caused by several viruses. As the flu vaccine given has been derived from four prevalent viruses for that time of the year, the circulating virus has to match the virus strain for the best protection. It also depends on an individual’s immune response to produce antibodies. Though it might not provide complete protection, there is a good chance that the incidence of Flu illness will reduce and chances of complications and hospital admissions due to flu illness will come down. 

Can all children get a flu vaccine?

Yes, the minimum age is 6 months. Only in the first year, two doses of Flu vaccine need to be given 1 month apart to reinforce the immunity and subsequently once every year to provide maximum immunity as the circulating strain and the matching vaccine strain keeps changing.

Ideally, it’s recommended until the child is 5 years old but children with recurrent respiratory illness, asthma and other long-term conditions would benefit from yearly vaccination to be continued till later. 

Are there side effects of the flu vaccine?

The influenza vaccine is very safe. It cannot cause the flu. Side effects are usually mild and could include:

• Mild soreness where the needle went into the arm for 1 to 2 days.

• A mild fever or aching for the first day or two after immunisation

Precautions

Apart from immunisations, there are some simple ways to protect yourself and your child from flu:

· Good hand hygiene is the most important factor to prevent the spread of flu. Wash your and anyone who will be looking after the baby hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitiser.

· If your baby is already reaching out for toys and crawling around, be sure to wash her hands as well and clean the surfaces which are frequently handled.

· Breastfeeding your baby helps to protect her health in more ways than one. Breastmilk contains antibodies that will pass on to your baby. Breastfed babies have a lesser incidence of colds and other respiratory and gut infections. 

· Avoid close contact with persons who may already be showing signs of Flu symptoms if possible. 

There has been a surge of flu vaccinations in the current Covid pandemic and vaccines are available at your local paediatrician or can be arranged through hospitals that provide home vaccination services. Don’t forget to protect your kids, and others, take a Flu jab for your children. 

The writer is Consultant – Pediatrician & Neonatologist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Bangalore (Malleshwaram).

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Health & Wellness

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MULTIPLE MYELOMA

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Multiple myeloma is a type of blood cancer in which there is excess production of white blood cells, especially plasma cells. Plasma cells are the end-stage or most mature variant of B-Cells, the latter being responsible for the antibody formation in the body and for immune response. The B-Cells originate in the bone marrow and hence Multiple Myeloma starts commonly in the bones, however may later affect other organs as well. Actress -politican Kirron Kher was recently diagnosed with multiple myeloma.

COMMON SYMPTOMS

a) Bone pains, commonly affecting the central or axial bones of the vertebral column, pelvis and hips, skull bones, followed by ribs, sternum, clavicles, long bones of arms and legs

b) Weakness, fatigue, weight loss with low haemoglobin (anaemia), high calcium levels in the blood

c) Mental fogginess

d) Constipation

e) Kidney failure in advanced stages due to the breakdown of myeloma proteins and blockage of kidneys

f) Frequent infections due to reduced immunity

g) Bone fractures with minor trauma

h) Paralysis of upper or lower limbs or loss of bladder and bowel control in case the Myeloma is growing inside the vertebra and pressing the spinal cord

CAUSES

The definite causative factors for Multiple Myeloma are not

known, however the risk factors include

a) Age >60 years

b) Male gender

c) Family history of multiple myeloma

d) Pre-existing Monoclonal Gammopathy of un- determined significance (MGUS)

HOW TO DIAGNOSE IT?

The recommended tests for diagnosing Multiple Myeloma are

a) Complete blood counts – can pick up anaemia, high white cell count, low platelets

b) Serum electrophoresis – a special blood test to identify the monoclonal (M) band of myeloma protein/s and the type of Myeloma and estimate the quantity of Myeloma protein production

c) Kidney function tests may show a high level of creatinine, urea, calcium or uric acid

e) Liver function tests may show a reversal of albumin and globulin ratio with a high globulin level

f) Bone marrow biopsy is a test done to find out the number of plasma cells in the bone marrow

g) Radiology imaging- Total body X-Rays may show punched out bones where the myeloma has affected the bone. A CT scanner PET-CT can show the whole body myeloma involvement at an earlier stage than an X-RAY.

Sometimes the physician may ask for an MRI of the affected vertebra to see the level of the collapsed vertebra and whether a patient needs surgery /radiation to improve the neurological function.

The treatment of Multiple myeloma depends upon the stage of the disease and it is classified into 3 stages I, II, III.

The treatment includes symptom relief, reduction in bone pain, preventing complications like kidney failure, fractures and paralysis.

It includes Targeted therapies, chemotherapy, steroids, immunotherapy, Bone marrow transplant, renal dialysis, surgery, and radiation therapy.

Besides the disease directed therapy the common things recommended for a patient are adequate water intake to remove the Myeloma proteins by proper flushing of kidneys (urination) and keeping up a good mobility/exercise program to avoid bone loss.

The writer is Chairperson Radiation Oncology, Cancer Institute, Medanta – The Medicity.

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Health & Wellness

HOW SOCIAL MEDIA ADDICTION IS SEVERELY AFFECTING TEENS

Is excessive social media use among teenagers in the ongoing pandemic leading to anxiety, burnout, depression, and other mental health issues? Mental health experts and psychologists share their take on it.

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The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a major surge in social media usage among teenagers in addition to other age groups. Although social media has been a life-saver during the pandemic when it comes to being updated with health-related information and other news from reliable sources, killing boredom, loneliness or taking a break by consuming light and humourous content, spending too much time on it can have a deleterious effect on the mental health and wellbeing of teenagers. There can be harmful consequences of over-use including poor sleep, irritability, stress, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and difficulty in concentration. Therefore, it becomes important to unplug from time to time and engage in productive and recreational activities. Mental health experts and psychologists share their opinions on how excessive social media use is affecting adolescent minds. 

LIVING A VIRTUAL LIFE CAN HARM THE HEALTHY STATE OF MIND OF TEENAGERS

For most adolescents, more time spent at home during the pandemic has meant increased hours of being glued to a screen. While social media can prove to be an invaluable tool, living a virtual life can harm their healthy state of mind. Heavy social media dependence has been linked to emotional issues like negative wellbeing, low self-esteem, experiencing feelings of depression, disturbed sleep patterns, and an impaired attention span. Bothering yourself with the feelings of the thousands of your social media followers can indeed make you feel anxious. It is a common sight to witness teenagers constantly scrolling their phones. Parents need to be mindful of this activity since it tends to keep the brain on high alert, averting the child from falling asleep and can destroy the release of melatonin, a hormone that makes us feel tired. Parents must ensure to shorten the time spent on virtual mediums by engaging the child in mind-boosting activities like concentration games, breathing exercises, or brain-body coordination workouts. A pause in social media usage can help them connect with their real life, making them emotionally happier and healthier. The younger generation seems to be the hardest hit by the pandemic. Hence it is more important than ever that they can access support with their emotional health during such critical times.

Kanchan Rai, Mental & Emotional Wellbeing Coach, Founder, Let Us Talk

MODERATE USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA IS AN ENABLER OF HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS

It has been well established that human beings are social creatures and the ongoing pandemic has made most of us crave a social life. Studies suggest that boredom and loneliness are strong predictors of social media use among teenagers. It helps teenagers self-regulate emotional mood states, feel aroused when they are bored as applications such as Instagram, YouTube, etc. provide entertaining content, it also helps boost self-esteem among them as 66% of Indian teens feel acceptance on social media. Studies also suggest that during the Covid pandemic, browsing through social media and interacting with friends help teenagers reduce their feelings of loneliness. Teenagers in India are spending the majority of their online activity on Instagram or YouTube and consuming humour-based content to feel happier. However, the problem arises when the time spent on social media exceeds the four hours per day limit. It has been noticed that with excessive use, 70% of teens share sensitive information about themselves, and 66% of teens experience some amount of cyber-bullying. Psychologists and researchers agree that excessive social media usage during this time is also causing discontentment in physical appearance, reducing levels of happiness, leading to anxiety, depression, and even lower self-esteem among teenagers. Thus, impacting the mental health of the youth. 

  The best way to thus manage the harmful impact of social media is by limiting the use of social media and including exercise as a part of one’s daily regime. The time spent on social media should not be more than four hours per day, parents should understand if their child is feeling anxious or upset and even help them improve their self-esteem by reminding them that social media is not real, it is simply a virtual world. In certain cases, professional help must be sorted. Moderate and controlled use of social media is an enabler of healthy relationships, when it becomes excessive and addictive it becomes a deterrent to positive mental health.

Dr Prerna Kohli, eminent Psychologist, Founder, MindTribe.in

PARENTS SHOULD SAFEGUARD THEIR CHILDREN FROM SOCIAL MEDIA ADDICTIONS BY ENRICHING THEIR ENVIRONMENT

The challenging times of the Covid-19 pandemic created tremendous turbulence through all walks of life. The global lockdown led to the shutting of many important physical settings, one of them being schools. The schools were operating online, allowing the children an increase in the usage of mobiles, laptops, computers, and other electronic gadgets. As the parents also went online with their occupation, they were unable to provide supervision concerning the amount of screen time and the content watched by the children. With the provision of interesting social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Whatsapp, there is a constant urge and impulsivity in the children to post or watch the content on these social media sites. This excessive usage is likely to bring up issues like body image concerns, peer pressure, cyberbullying, exploitations, low self-esteem and many others.

  Here comes the responsibility of the parents to supervise their children. They can divide this into two categories, mandatory and recreational. Since mandatory cannot be avoided, recreational usage can be altered. The parents must fix a time discussing with their children regarding the usage and should also make verbal contracts with them to make them feel responsible. Positive and negative reinforcements can be applied by the parents. Being friendly will help them open up with the kids. The possibility of exploitative content available on the media should be conveyed by the parents. 

Further, a cognitively stimulating environment will help them avoid engagements in such platforms. We often blame our children for using the internet but as parents, it is important to safeguard our children from such addictions by enriching their environment.

Prachi Kohli, counselling psychologist, Apollo spectra hospital, Karol bagh

WHILE TEENS HAVE ACCESS TO NEW MEDIA, THEY MUST BE MADE AWARE OF THEIR RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES AND THE LEGAL IMPLICATIONS

The Covid pandemic has impacted the lives of children from toddlers to teenagers in a major way. They seem to spend more time at home due to restrictions; learning is happening on screens, chatting with friends and peers is also happening on various social media platforms. While social media has become a major medium of entertainment, flaunting one’s skills and looks, it has also turned into a major source of information for teenagers who spend their major time on phones or laptops. However, they need to know that no child can have a personal social media account before 13 years of age. They must refrain from sharing their friends’ pictures or content. Bullying can happen on social media and teenagers need to be aware of that. For any news, do not refer to social media rather perform a detailed search on their own as the information on social media can be personal views and may not be reliable. While our teenagers have access to this new media, they must be made aware of their rights and responsibilities and their legal implications.

Dr Himani Narula, Developmental Pediatrician and Co-Founder, Continua Kids

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Health & Wellness

HYALURONIC ACID: YOUR NEW SKINCARE BFF

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If you keep a tab on the latest trends in the skincare industry, you would have certainly heard about hyaluronic acid — the skincare ingredient that has taken the skincare industry by storm in recent years. From moisturising creams to night serums to injectable procedures, hyaluronic acid is today a staple ingredient of multiple skincare products. Its popularity though is not without reason!

Hyaluronic acid is naturally found in abundance in human bodies, particularly in eyes, in connective tissues as well as the skin. The natural substance plays multiple roles in the body including the critical roles of keeping the joints lubricated and the skin healthy and firm.

Being a hydrophilic substance, hyaluronic acid can hold water multiple times its weight – the main reason for its lubrication properties. When it comes to the skin, hyaluronic acid helps retain moisture and keep the skin plump and supple. However, its role goes much beyond hydration and moisturisation.

HYALURONIC ACID AND ITS ANTI-AGEING ROLE

Let’s begin by understanding exactly what hyaluronic acid (HA) is. HA is a naturally found saccharide or sugar that performs the critical function of strengthening the skin’s extracellular matrix. This is why an abundance of HA is crucial for youthful and resilient skin. Hyaluronic acid also plays a vital role in stimulating the generation of collagen and elastin – two essential proteins that provide support and firmness to the skin’s scaffolding structure.

As we age, the skin gradually loses its natural reserves of hyaluronic acid. This has a series of effects on the skin’s health. Firstly, a reduction in HA reserves increases the appearance of dullness and dryness and may even cause the skin to lose some volume. Secondly, loss of HA also impacts the generation of collagen and elastin that are central to youthful, firm and tight skin.

The skin’s resilience, its firmness and tightness as well as its volume all depend on the strength of the skin’s extracellular matrix and HA plays a central role in strengthening it. This is why a series of skincare products and procedures are today focusing on replenishing the skin’s lost HA reserves to provide plumper and more hydrated appearance while also regenerating the overall health of the skin’s extracellular matrix.

HYALURONIC ACID PRODUCTS: WHICH ONE TO CHOOSE

As discussed above, hyaluronic acid plays a versatile role in maintaining skin health and vitality. This is why HA-based skincare products offer multiple skin care benefits such as hydration, suppleness, radiance, and anti-ageing benefits. There is no dearth of HA-based skincare products in the market today. So much so that consumers are often confused as to which kind of product they must choose to gain the maximum benefit. Will an HA-based night cream sufficient to do the job? Or should I go for a filler of injectable treatment for better results? Consumers often ask these questions as they struggle to make sense of the different offerings on the market shelves.

Actually, the choice of product depends on your requirement from it! If your primary need from an HA product is to address dullness, dryness and signs of dehydration on your skin, an HA-based moisturising cream or night serum will work well for you. HA-based serums help give the skin a soft, smooth and supple texture as they work as humectants. Regular use will result in smooth and plumper looking skin as the presence of HA allows it to attract and retain moisture and abundant hydration from the environment. If dehydration and dryness have resulted in the appearance of fine lines on your skin, regular use of HA-based creams may also help fill up some of these signs.

On the other hand, if you need an HA-based product to fill up the depleted volume of your cheeks or reshape your facial features such as plumping up the lips and restructuring the jawline, dermal fillers are what you need.

Lastly, if you are seeking deeper anti-ageing benefits for mature skin, you can try a new HA-based product Profhilo. It is an HA-based anti-ageing procedure that achieves skin bio-remodelling by administering a highly concentrated and pure form of HA into multiple strategic sites on the face. When injected uniformly, HA achieves widespread diffusion in multiple layers of the skin and has a series of beneficial effects. On the one hand, it brings hydration and radiance to the skin. On the other hand, it plays a vital role in stimulating fibroblast cells which in turn induce the generation of collagen and elastin proteins on completion of successive sessions. The result is an overall anti-ageing benefit that addresses the process of ageing at its roots.

The writer is a Leading New Delhi -based Dermatologist and Skin Specialist.

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GENDER EQUILIBRIUM IN INNOVATIONS: A TOP PRIORITY IN HEALTHCARE

Dr Vishal Rao

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It was a forthright conversation with a friend of mine, a breast cancer survivor, that first drew my attention to the pressing need for gendered innovations in healthcare. When she mentioned that breast cancer caused her great anguish, I presumed she was referring to the ordeal of fighting cancer. She was in fact addressing a larger unaddressed truth. The painful memory that triggered her emotions was the regular mammogram examination which, she confided, unsettled the dignity of her womanhood.

Her profound angst, in turn, shook the very foundation of my thought process. Ever since, I have been consumed by the essence and significance of gendered innovations which, as aptly stated by Stanford University, employs methods of sex, gender, and intersectional analysis to create new knowledge. Talking on behalf of my fraternity, I feel this new knowledge should be a global priority if we want to make healthcare products and services, particularly medical devices and services, more purposeful, equitable, and gender-balanced.

I recall a very interesting case of a seven-year-old girl who raised pertinent questions before the makers of an immensely popular video game: “Why do I need to pose as a man to play this game?” In almost every industry, whether textiles, cosmetics, or even automobiles, the brains at work are mostly men. Product design can remain fixated on a man’s comfort, be it the seatbelt of a car, personal protective gear, or temperature control systems, owing to gendered design thinking. Consequently, little thought is spared for accommodating a woman’s needs and preferences. It is high time a woman’s perspective is made integral to creation and innovation, rather than having a man think on her behalf. We must institutionalise the concept of empathy design which considers the end-user’s physical, aspirational, and emotional needs, not ghastly assumptions of what works and what does not. When you make empathy design and gender-balanced crosstalk integral to product design, manufacture, and service ideologies and methodologies, you create enduring value beyond monetary rewards.

As the decision-maker for designing and delivering fellowship programs in my organisation, I was initially puzzled to find a few married women recruits profusely thanking me for the opportunity. While I saw no room for gratitude in these merit-based recruitments, I could sense a larger truth at play: the blatant assumption that married women with or without kids fail to do justice to their stated roles.

Performance is not a gender issue; it is a competence issue that can be found lacking across both genders when they lack commitment or conviction. Gender inclusivity and women empowerment are integral to health, not just in device design but across clinical, research, or administrative spheres. Talking of my domain, I have found the perspectives of women surgeons to be a fine blend of art and science. They bring a new dimension to cure and care that many of their male counterparts tend to overlook, knowingly or unknowingly. I call it surgical intuition beyond the surgical incision.

Gender equilibrium – whether in academia, industry, business, or markets – can only happen in the realm of conscious capitalism which alone can facilitate the much-needed fusion of ‘service’ and ‘services’. The divide between these diametrically opposite philosophical approaches is more profound than what the difference in singularity and plurality implies. While ‘service’ implies seva, ‘services’ could be fixated solely on the billing counter. They will fuse best, if and only if grassroot education explodes the misconceptions centred around gender and help fix the prejudices that often mar the sanctity of creativity and innovation. This fundamental pedagogy will help make the design more holistic and inclusive. Gendered innovation does not imply creating only-men and only-woman teams, it is about institutionalising a balanced empathy design that respects the yin and yang elements.

The writer is Regional Director – Head & Neck Surgical Oncology and Robotic Surgery, Associate Dean – Academics, HCG Cancer

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Health & Wellness

WHY WE SHOULD NEVER IGNORE RETINOBLASTOMA

Dr Anasua Ganguly Kapoor

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Retinoblastoma is the most frequent eye cancer in children. It is a tumour that originates in the retina which is a thin layer in the back of the eye which helps us to see. Here are our top 5 reasons explaining why we shouldn’t ignore retinoblastoma.

RETINOBLASTOMA ALTHOUGH UNCOMMON CAN AFFECT ANY CHILD

‘Eye cancer in a child? You must be joking doctor!’ exclaimed Subhash father of 3-month-old little angle Priya with both eyes retinoblastoma. As an ocular oncologist, this is a difficult situation we encounter quite often in our clinics while breaking the bad news to parents with children with eye cancer. Retinoblastoma affects 1 in 16,000- 18,000 live births. Worldwide 8000 new cases are reported each year, of which more than 1400 cases are from India. It also accounts for 3% of all childhood cancers. Most of these patients (90%) are less than 3 years of age.

EARLY DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT CAN SAVE A LIFE

The two most common presenting symptom of the disease are white reflex in a child’s eye and squinting of the eye. The other uncommon symptoms may be that the child has a big or small eye, red-eye, or swollen eyelids. It is of utmost importance that the child is checked by an eye cancer specialist as soon as he develops any of these symptoms. Retinoblastoma is curable if detected early and treated appropriately. Parents play a very important role in the early diagnosis of retinoblastoma. The improvement in diagnosis and treatment of retinoblastoma has increased the survival rates and most patients survive the disease and live into adulthood. The treatment of retinoblastoma depends on the stage at which the child presents to us. Different forms of therapy are available. For smaller tumours, laser or freezing therapy (cryotherapy) usually suffices. Whereas, for larger tumours, the available modalities are intravenous (drip) chemotherapy, eye injection chemotherapy, and rarely radiotherapy. Thus, spreading awareness will help in early diagnosis and appropriate treatment of this deadly cancer.

RETINOBLASTOMA CAN BE VISION AND EYE THREATENING

Whenever we are treating cancer there are three goals that we want to achieve- First save a life, second save the eye and third save the vision of the patient, in that order. So, despite our best efforts to save a life in a significant percentage of patients eye removal surgery is required. This is more true for the developing nations where delayed presentation, incorrect diagnosis, poor compliance to treatment owing to poor access to health care facilities, financial constraints, cultural belief systems are the major hurdles to successful therapy.

RETINOBLASTOMA CAN BE LIFE-THREATENING

Whenever retinoblastoma is left untreated the tumour is likely to spread outside the eye, to the brain and different parts of the body and can cause life risk to the patient. The 5-year survival rate of patients with retinoblastoma in India is around 90%.

LONG TERM FOLLOW UP IS IMPORTANT TO DETECT TUMOUR RECURRENCE AND NON-EYE CANCERS

Concerns of eye tumour recurrence and late treatment-related complications justify the long-term follow-up of retinoblastoma survivors. These patients are at an increased risk of second tumours like sarcoma, lymphoma, leukaemia which again requires early diagnosis and prompt treatment.

The writer is a Consultant, Hima Bindu Yalamanchili Centre for Eye Cancer, LV Prasad Eye Institute

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