Awareness is key in battle against breast cancer in India

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The Bliss Foundation is working to create more awareness about breast cancer in India. (Photo courtesy: Bliss Foundation)
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The Bliss Foundation is working to create more awareness about breast cancer in India. (Photo courtesy: Bliss Foundation)
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The Bliss Foundation is working to create more awareness about breast cancer in India. (Photo courtesy: Bliss Foundation)
Updated 16 October 2017
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Awareness is key in battle against breast cancer in India

NEW DELHI: Meenu Madan calls herself a champion, not a survivor. She says she is 7 years old, not 49. Seven years ago, she was diagnosed with third-stage breast cancer.
“I kept on ignoring the pain in my breast for quite some time. When it became unbearable I went to a gynaecologist, and by the evening my entire world was topsy turvy,” Madan, a customer care executive based in New Delhi, told Arab News.
After treatment — surgery, chemotherapy and radiation — that lasted more than a year, “I got the gift of a new life.”
She added: “One reason I suffered was because I wasn’t conscious of my body. I had no awareness about breast cancer, and this awareness is very important if we want to fight the growing menace of this disease.”
Dr. Geeta Kadayaprath, a leading oncologist in India, told Arab News that there should be “a concerted awareness campaign” in the country about breast cancer.
“The worrisome thing is we’ve seen lots of young women with breast cancer in their late 20s and early 30s,” she said.
“Cases of breast cancer are increasing every year. Last year I saw approximately 350 cases. This year so far, I’ve already seen more than 450.”
The oncologist, who has 20 years of experience treating breast cancer, added: “There are about 140,000 new cases every year, and by 2025 it will be 240,000. The urban population is more affected than the rural.”
Kadayaprath does not subscribe to the popular view that breast cancer is genetic. “Only 10 percent of cases are genetic, and 90 percent are due to other reasons.”
Talking about the southern state of Kerala and the northern city of Bhatinda, she said: “The rising cases of cancer in these places are due to the presence of pesticides in vegetables.”
To create greater awareness about breast cancer, and help sufferers and survivors, two years ago she co-founded the Bliss Foundation. “We need to collaborate with the right kinds of people, like legislators, activists, students and others,” said Kadayaprath.
Madan, who has been part of the NGO since its inception, said: “My association with the Bliss Foundation has changed my life and the lives of so many.”
“Imagine a champion like me visiting a day-care center where cancer patients are being treated. The moment they see me, the expression on their face changes. The gloom goes away. When they see a fit survivor talking to them, it greatly boosts their morale.”
Kadayaprath said: “The Bliss Foundation is an attempt to intervene in the lives of people in a meaningful way, and create a wider platform to spread awareness about breast cancer. Creating medical infrastructure isn’t a solution; creating awareness is the major issue.”
Breast cancer patient Debjani, 46, a schoolteacher in New Delhi, told Arab News: “I live a very healthy lifestyle and used to do regular exercise and eat good food, but still I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s very important to have regular check-ups… Body awareness is important.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 60 percent of women in India are diagnosed with third- or fourth-stage breast cancer, which “drastically affects the survival rate and treatment options.”
Kadayaprath said: “Education is important. We have to make people breast-aware, and train them to examine themselves regularly so if they find something unusual, they can go to a doctor at an early stage and the survival rate is then very high.”


World’s oldest bread found at prehistoric site in Jordan

Updated 17 July 2018
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World’s oldest bread found at prehistoric site in Jordan

WASHINGTON: Charred remains of a flatbread baked about 14,500 years ago in a stone fireplace at a site in northeastern Jordan have given researchers a delectable surprise: people began making bread, a vital staple food, millennia before they developed agriculture.
No matter how you slice it, the discovery detailed on Monday shows that hunter-gatherers in the Eastern Mediterranean achieved the cultural milestone of bread-making far earlier than previously known, more than 4,000 years before plant cultivation took root.
The flatbread, likely unleavened and somewhat resembling pita bread, was fashioned from wild cereals such as barley, einkorn or oats, as well as tubers from an aquatic papyrus relative, that had been ground into flour.
It was made by a culture called the Natufians, who had begun to embrace a sedentary rather than nomadic lifestyle, and was found at a Black Desert archaeological site.
“The presence of bread at a site of this age is exceptional,” said Amaia Arranz-Otaegui, a University of Copenhagen postdoctoral researcher in archaeobotany and lead author of the research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Arranz-Otaegui said until now the origins of bread had been associated with early farming societies that cultivated cereals and legumes. The previous oldest evidence of bread came from a 9,100-year-old site in Turkey.
“We now have to assess whether there was a relationship between bread production and the origins of agriculture,” Arranz-Otaegui said. “It is possible that bread may have provided an incentive for people to take up plant cultivation and farming, if it became a desirable or much-sought-after food.”
University of Copenhagen archaeologist and study co-author Tobias Richter pointed to the nutritional implications of adding bread to the diet. “Bread provides us with an important source of carbohydrates and nutrients, including B vitamins, iron and magnesium, as well as fiber,” Richter said.
Abundant evidence from the site indicated the Natufians had a meat- and plant-based diet. The round floor fireplaces, made from flat basalt stones and measuring about a yard (meter) in diameter, were located in the middle of huts.
Arranz-Otaegui said the researchers have begun the process of trying to reproduce the bread, and succeeded in making flour from the type of tubers used in the prehistoric recipe. But it might have been an acquired taste.
“The taste of the tubers,” Arranz-Otaegui said, “is quite gritty and salty. But it is a bit sweet as well.”