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Archive for the ‘Prevention’ Category

As you may remember from this post, I set an intention to work through the Healing Journey Program (as far as it is available for download) and report back here on my progress. The eagle-eyed among you might have noticed that it is much more than one week since I did that. Knowing myself, I put out a request for a buddy to keep me accountable and through the Healing Journey newsletter I got my wish, so then there were no more excuses.
I’ve now completed the first week of the program and so it’s time to let you know my thoughts. (more…)

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You may have read previously on this blog about the Love Balls charity event I was involved with. This was to support the Orchid male cancer charity, and one of our aims was to raise awareness.

Often the male cancers are not talked about – men may feel embarrassed to do so. So it’s time to change that. Men are encouraged by Orchid to check and get checked.

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World Health Organisation

Today the WHO is promoting awareness of cancer with its World Cancer Day. The topic for World Cancer Day 2010 is “Cancer can be prevented too”. This is focusing on simple health changes such as not smoking, being sensible about alcohol, eating a healthy diet and taking regular exercise. They also refer to avoiding infections which increase the risk of cancer.
When speaking to people who have cancer, this prevention message seems to provoke mixed reactions. Whilst people generally say that of course they do not want others to go through the problems they have, there is also some resentment. It seems that the cancer prevention message has an implication that those who do have cancer could have avoided it through the steps outlined above. Bad enough to have the disease, without being blamed for bringing it on yourself!
What are your thoughts this World Cancer Day? How can we promote healthy lifestyles, and possibly reduce cancer incidence, without condemning those for whom ‘prevention’ is either too late or simply was not enough?

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It sometimes seems that cancer treatments are very harsh, and cause ongoing health problems (see my last post), so could there really be help for cancer from the humble pomegranate?

New research published this month has shown that compounds found in pomegranates act to slow tumour growth in breast cancers which are hormone dependant. This is research done in a laboratory (published by the American Association for Cancer Research), but the implication is that this could translate into a real help in people with the disease – or even help with prevention.

If you take this research and put it together with previous studies, which showed that drinking pomegranate juice slowed the progression of prostate cancer (another hormone dependant cancer) it does look as though this could really help some people. (Reported in 2006)

What are your thoughts?

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Last week a news item was reported saying that a person’s chance of surviving a year from a cancer diagnosis in the UK varies depending on where they live. This is sometimes referred to as a ‘postcode lottery’. You can read more on this news item here.
These statistics are certainly cause for concern. Where you live should not determine the quality of your care. But is the issue really as clear cut as that? Are the differences a result of the care that is given, or the screening in the area – or are there cultural factors at play, with people in one geographical are more likely to go to the doctor with worrying symptoms than others?
The parliamentary group has suggested that targets for one-year survival which do not take account of age be put into place across the whole of the NHS. It is claimed that this would benefit over-75s in particular. But benefit them in what way?
Unfortunately, I fear that what would actually happen is that, given such a target, there would be an emphasis on prolonging peoples’ lives beyond the one year measure. This could be at the expense of that natural death I was supporting in my last post. Prolonging life can be an expensive business. In our already stretched health service, I would hate to see the focus being put on causing suffering to the dying by extending their lives to meet a target at the expense of helping them die well, or even worse at the expense of other treatments.
Surely a better focus would be to reach the underlying reasons for the geographical differences – which may not be the same in each area. Sure, ask health services to improve their practices where they are not up to scratch – but also make sure that the money does not need to be spent on education for doctors to recognize symptoms, or outreach to communities as to what symptoms require investigation (as in iVan which I mentioned in an earlier post).

How do you think this information can best be used? Do you like the idea of targets? Let me know your thoughts in the replies below, and let’s join the debate.

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Prof. Nicola Robinson

Prof. Nicola Robinson

Back to the NCCSHG conference, I’m now looking at the presentations made by a series of fabulous and interesting folks on a variety of topics. The first was Professor Nicola Robinson of Thames Valley University on the subject of CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) and especially research.
So what is CAM – Prof. Robinson described it as ‘health care lying outside conventional medicines’. She also said that 80% of the world’s population relies on what we call ‘alternative’ medicine. So really what we mean by conventional medicine is modern science-based disease care. When someone is diagnosed with cancer, that modern care may very well save their life. But it is not the whole answer. If it was, there would not be an upsurge in the demand from patients for CAM treatments and therapies.
According to Prof. Robinson, 86% of cancer patients use CAM to complement conventional treatment. The reasons for this include:

  • dissatisfaction with conventional treatments offered
  • attempts to lessen the impact of side-effects of conventional treatment
  • wanting a holistic approach (which also relates to patient empowerment)
  • alleviating the effects of chronic disease which can be managed but not cured

According to a book I read recently, ‘Cancer : 50 Essential Things to Do’ by Greg Anderson, people who have survived in spite of being told they are terminally ill have several strategies in common. One of the most powerful of these is being pro-active about their own health. They regard it as their job to become well, not someone else’s job to fix what is wrong with them. I believe CAM has an important part to play in this. 96% of the survivors Greg Anderson interviewed had undertaken a course of conventional treatment – but they also looked at such areas as nutrition, exercise and spiritual development. (I will review this book in more detail in a future post)
So CAM has a place in cancer care. In the UK more than 90% of cancer care centres offer some kind of touch based therapy. Professor Robinson’s role is in investigating what the benefits are. How do we measure the improvements that people experience? How can we give people more information to empower them to make informed choices about the therapies they want to integrate into their care?
I, for one, am pleased to see that both money and energy are being put into taking the best from all healing traditions so we can have a future where wellness is a priority. I hope that the research will also look at how therapies can be used to reduce stress, for instance for family members of those with cancer. My gut feeling is that this could have a preventative effect and reduce the likelihood of going on to develop stress-related illnesses as a result of supporting someone else.
If you have used CAM treatments, either as a person with cancer or a supporter, I would love to hear from you what difference it made to you.

With best wishes,
Anne x

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Merseyside and Cheshire Cancer Network's iVan

Merseyside and Cheshire Cancer Network's iVan

Continuing on with insights and learning I gained recently at the NCCSHG, I wanted to think about cancer prevention. According to the presentation given by Professor Mike Richards, the UK’s National Cancer Director, over 50% of cases of cancer are ‘preventable’. Figures I’ve seen in other places vary, but this figure of 50% is often quoted. So what does it mean, preventable? Well, first of all Professor Richards was keen to point out that avoiding cancer does not mean living forever. But we have quite a lot of evidence now to show that cancers are more common when we have a poor diet, low levels of exercise and are overweight. Unfortunately, all those things are quite common in our society, and possibly getting more so.

The good news is that it’s not too late. By making exercise and health a priority in our lives we can be more resistant to stress, feel better, be less likely to get cancer (or have a recurrence), and have more fun!

At the conference there was a yellow van, which you can see in the photo with its manager Sandra Rowlands. He is very jolly and inviting and is affectionately known as iVan. Sandra and iVan’s job is to tour around their local area (Merseyside and Cheshire), answering peoples questions and fears around cancer – and spreading the message of prevention. You can find out more about iVan at www.mccn.nhs.uk.

So have you seen iVan around town? What did you think? Do you think a similar service would make a difference in your area? What are you personally doing to stay healthy (I started a Wii fitness program this year)? Why do you think the cancer prevention message hasn’t got through yet? What will it take for that to happen? Please join the debate and let me know what you think in the comments on this blog.

Anne x

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