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Warning signs


Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News

Ovarian cancer is often referred to as a “silent killer” as women are generally unaware they have it until it has spread.

But health experts have warned that if women pay attention to their symptoms their chances of survival could be dramatically improved.

Survival rates are poor, with only 30% of those diagnosed surviving for more than five years.

However identifying the disease before it has spread can mean nine in 10 women make the five-year mark.

“The symptoms shout out at you, but you have to listen to your body and act,” said 52-year-old Shehnaz Khan, from Middlesex.

She first found out she had ovarian cancer 20 years ago after suffering for some time with constant dull aching abdominal pain and frequent tiredness.

Initially Ms Khan, an actress at the time, put the problems down to work stress, but doctors diagnosed ovarian cancer.

"It is the type of cancer that can get any woman"
Shehnaz Khan

She was told it had spread and had to have radical surgery, including a hysterectomy.

“In some ways I wish I had known what the symptoms were so that I could have acted sooner, but then I have been extremely fortunate that the treatment I received at the time has given me a long life and I am able to talk about it now and share my experience,” she said.

“For me the biggest shock was that I was going to lose my fertility and my chance to have children biologically.

“I had never heard of ovarian cancer before.”

Following her treatment, Ms Khan, now a designer, redoubled her efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle, eating carefully and exercising.

In 2006, however, she started getting constant diarrhoea and feeling tired, she had period-type pain and started losing weight.

THE SYMPTOMS

  • Persistent pelvic/abdominal pain
  • Persistent bloating
  • Difficulty eating
  • Feeling full quickly

Initially, she suspected her high fibre diet was the cause.

But when the problem persisted and she started feeling faint, she went to her GP who advised a blood test called a CA125 to check for ovarian cancer.

This showed there were problems so she had further tests, which confirmed the disease had returned.

She said: “The tests said I had a big mass growing in the pelvic area and that it was ovarian cancer, which was hard for me to understand as I had no ovaries, but they said a cell must have remained and continued to grow and over the period had grown into this mass.”

She also had two small lesions in the upper abdomen.

Following chemo the tumour began to shrink and the lesions calcified, but she is now undergoing more treatment after they increased again.

Ms Khan said she would probably need regular chemo as they tumours were unlikely to completely disappear.

“But the prognosis is that the treatments will help to kick back that tumour again and start to reduce it and bring back my quality of life,” she said.

“I think the shocking thing as regards survival rates is that there have not been any changes in 20 years and that is so frightening.

“If you can catch it early you can get help and treatment.

“It is the type of cancer that can get any woman and because you can’t see it or feel it is hard.

“You have to rely on listening to your body.”

The Department of Health and cancer charity Ovarian Cancer Action (OCA) have issued the key symptoms to be aware of – persistent pain, persistent bloating, difficulty eating and feeling full quickly.

Peter Reynolds, of OCA, said: “We think awareness is really low.

“It was traditionally seen as a ‘silent killer’, but some women have the symptoms for a year before their cancer is diagnosed.

“It is important to say that if women have these symptoms they are unlikely to be ovarian cancer, but they should get them checked out.

‘Hardly improved’

“Survival rates for ovarian cancer in this country have hardly improved for the last 20 to 30 years and the mortality rates are shockingly high.”

OCA has recently doubled the funding it gives to the Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre, based at Hammersmith Hospital in London.

The centre’s researchers have been working to discover why the cancer quickly becomes resistant to chemotherapy and the role of ovarian cancer stem cells in the process.

Professor Hani Gabra, director of research, said they were developing new drugs and would soon be starting clinical trials.

“We are developing drugs that can re-sensitise the cancer again so it will respond again to chemotherapy,” he said.

“It probably would build up another resistance.

“But we are looking at ways of keeping people alive and improving their quality of life.


This article is from the BBC News website. © British Broadcasting Corporation

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Brain tests show child wealth gap


Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

The brains of children from low-income families process information differently to those of their wealthier counterparts, US research suggests.

Normal nine and 10-year-olds from rich and poor backgrounds had differing electrical activity in a part of the brain linked to problem solving.

The Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience study was described as a “wake-up call” about the impact of deprivation.

A UK researcher said it could shed light on early brain development.

The 26 children in the study, conducted at the University of California, Berkeley, were measured using an electroencephalograph (EEG), which measured activity in the “prefrontal cortex” of the brain.

Half were from low income homes, and half from high income families.

During the test, an image the children had not been briefed to expect was flashed onto a screen, and their brain responses were measured.

Those from lower income families showed a lower prefrontal cortex response to it than those from wealthier households.

"We are certainly not blaming lower socioeconomic families for not talking to their kids – there are probably a zillion reasons why that happens "
Prof Thomas Boyce
University of California Berkeley

Dr Mark Kishiyama, one of the researchers, said: “The low socioeconomic kids were not detecting or processing the visual stimuli as well – they were not getting that extra boost from the prefrontal cortex.”

Since the children were, in health terms, normal in every way, the researchers suspected that “stressful environments” created by low socioeconomic status might be to blame.

Previous studies have suggested that children in low-income families are spoken to far less – on average hearing 30 million fewer words by the age of four.

Talking boost

Professor Thomas Boyce, another of the researchers, said that talking more to children could boost prefrontal cortex development.

“We are certainly not blaming lower socioeconomic families for not talking to their kids – there are probably a zillion reasons why that happens.”

His colleague, Professor Robert Knight, added: “This is a wake-up call – it’s not just that these kids are poor and more likely to have health problems, but they might actually not be getting full brain development from the stressful and relatively impoverished environment associated with low socioeconomic status.”

He said that with “proper intervention and training”, improvements could be made, even in older children.

Dr Emese Nagy, from the University of Dundee, said that it was a “pioneering” study which could aid understanding of how environment could affect brain development.

She said: “Children who grow up in a different environment may have very different early experiences, and may process information differently than children from a different environment.

“The study showed that low socioeconomic status children behaved exactly the same way as high socioeconomic status children, but their brain processed the information differently.”

This article is from the BBC News website. © British Broadcasting Corporation

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Ode to NHS


Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News

A poem has been penned to help children understand how NHS medical care works and honour the service in its 60th year.

When the NHS turned 60 in June, the nation looked back over six decades of free health care since the NHS’s inception in 1948.

The first babies born under its watch were interviewed, while experts pointed out the innovations that revolutionised care.

But now the NHS is attempting to connect with a new generation.

This week it unveiled a poem it commissioned from children’s laureate Michael Rosen and artwork by top illustrators including Helen Oxenbury, Tony Ross, Ed Vere, Axel Scheffer and Nick Sharratt.

“These are the hands” is designed to teach children about the NHS and its history.

Tito, aged 10, from New End school, Camden, studied the poem and the history of the NHS over the past few weeks and felt it had taught her something important.

“I really like the poem,” she said.

"I wanted to express the idea that it serves us cradle to the grave"
Michael Rosen

“I thought that was really emotional.

“Children will really like the poem because it is sort-of like a nursery rhyme.

“When I went to hospital with my sister who needed her tonsils out she was all attached to tubes and I think having a poem like this to explain about hospitals might have helped her.”

Heartbeat rhythm

Classmate Theo, aged nine, agreed: “I liked the way it had a constant rhythm a bit like a heartbeat.

“I think it would cheer up children going into hospital.”

Teacher Steve Buzzard said it was a great educational tool.

“I think it is a delightful idea getting the children’s poet laureate to write a poem celebrating the NHS at 60,” he said.

“We studied the poem and found it a really good way of teaching the children about the NHS and how long it has been going.”

THESE ARE THE HANDS

These are the hands

That touch us first

Feel your head

Find the pulse

And make your bed.

These are the hands

That tap your back

Test the skin

Hold your arm

Wheel the bin

Change the bulb

Fix the drip

Pour the jug

Replace your hip

These are the hands

That fill the bath

Mop the floor

Flick the switch

Soothe the sore

Burn the swabs

Give us a jab

Throw out sharps

Design the lab.

And these are the hands

That stop the leaks

Empty the pan

Wipe the pipes

Carry the can

Clamp the veins

Make the cast

Log the dose

And touch us last.

Michael Rosen said writing the poem had been a wonderful opportunity to give something back to the NHS, which had cared for his family since its inception.

Mr Rosen said: “When I came to write this poem, I wanted to express the idea that it serves us cradle to the grave, but I also wanted to celebrate everybody in the service.

“There are many different kinds of essential work going on every minute of the day and I wanted to show that.

“The NHS brought my five children into the world, saved the lives of two of them (one had septicaemia and the other pneumonia), and gently nursed my parents through to the end.”

Dr Sheila Shribman, the NHS national clinical director for children said: “It is fantastic and captures the essence of the care given.

“Children are on the whole healthier than they used to be, but there are still children who need to come into hospital and poetry is one of the important ways of communicating with them.

Professor Peter Hindmarsh, paediatric endocrinologist at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital said the poem should be widely disseminated.

“I think you could have it available in any of the NHS’s distribution formats and you might want to include it with the hospital slip that goes out with appointments from hospitals for a new appointment.

“Children might have ideas, rightly or wrongly about what is going to happen to them and I think anything that helps bring down the mystery or anxieties must be applauded.”

This article is from the BBC News website. © British Broadcasting Corporation

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