Here’s why the winter season is tough on cancer patients

Health, according to the World Health Organization, is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity”.[1] A variety of definitions have been used for different purposes over time. Health can be promoted by encouraging healthful activities, such as regular physical exercise and adequate sleep,[2] and by reducing or avoiding unhealthful activities or situations, such as smoking or excessive stress. Some factors affecting health are due to individual choices, such as whether to engage in a high-risk behavior, while others are due to structural causes, such as whether the society is arranged in a way that makes it easier or harder for people to get necessary healthcare services. Still other factors are beyond both individual and group choices, such as genetic disorders.

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Low immunity and drop in temperature bring a lot of discomfort to cancer patients.

While winter season has its own appeal from dreamy weather, cosy bonfires to delicious delicacies, for people with certain ailments like cancer, it could be a tough time.

Considering cancer patients tend to have a low immunity, they must make sure to take extra precautions from keeping warm, getting enough sunlight, staying hydrated and eating nutritious food.

One of the common problems cancer patients suffer from during winter season is hypothermia when the body temperature comes down as body begins to lose heat faster.

“Side effects of cancer treatment such as fatigue, dehydration, and anaemia may raise the risk of hypothermia,” says Dr Ramakant Deshpande, Oncosurgeon & Chairman of ACI Cumballa Hill Hospital.

People with cancer should be extra careful to avoid falls in winters as certain treatments can impact bone density or some patients can have numbness in their feet.

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“Patients can get a fracture if they are taking treatments that impact bone density. Cancer patients have to be cautious if they have thrombocytopenia, a condition linked to blood cancers and causing low platelet counts. Moreover, patients who have numbness in their feet (neuropathy) can also be susceptible to falls,” says Dr Deshpande.

With weak immunity, the risk of catching flu remains high for cancer patients.

“Cancer treatment tends to weaken the immune system of a cancer patient. It is necessary to get a flu shot as these patients may not have enough white blood cells to get that much-needed protection from infections. This is why cancer patients have double chances of having complications from the flu when compared to healthy individuals,” says the expert.

Here are the tips for cancer patients to follow during winter season:

* Stay indoors as much possible to prevent yourself from the harsh cold. While stepping outside, make sure to dress up in layers. Use a hat that covers your ears, especially if therapy has caused you to lose your hair.

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* Wear gloves, thick socks, and warm boots after consulting the doctor.

* Protect your skin. Use lip balm and moisturizers regularly as recommended by the expert, and avoid very hot showers and baths.

* Consider getting a humidifier at home to avoid winter dryness.

* Stay hydrated and drink plenty of non-caffeinated liquids regularly.

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