What Every Woman Should Know
about Breast Cancer,
Compiled by Those in the Know…(NHS Choices)
Kylie, Sheryl Crow, Cynthia Nixon star of Sex in the City and now the fictional character Sally from Coronation Street, what do all these women have in common? They have all faced real or portrayed public battles with breast cancer, highlighting one of the most common of the female cancers.
There are around 46,000 cases diagnosed every year in England and Wales. With 1 in 9 women affected by breast cancer during their lifetime, the likelihood of someone you know being affected is significant. With early detection there is a good chance of recovery and it is vital that women check their breasts regularly for any changes and always get any changes examined by their GP.
Many people experience feelings of helplessness, isolation and disbelief when first given the diagnosis of cancer and may want to retreat from and ignore the situation. However, once the initial shock wears off, many often galvanise themselves and start to prepare their bodies for battle with military precision. A major part of that strategy involves researching the condition and improving an often-rudimentary knowledge of the disease and its effects.
Around 1.6 million women receive NHS breast screening a year. If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, knowing the questions to ask can help you to understand more about your condition and the treatment.
What should you know once diagnosed?
- At what stage is your cancer?
- When can you expect to start treatment and what side effects might you experience?
- What is the treatment going to achieve? Is it likely to cure the cancer or will it slow down the growth of the cancer and improve symptoms?
- Is there’s someone at the hospital you can contact if you feel unwell, before or after the treatment and do you need to contact your GP?
- There are often practical issues that need to be sorted out (transport or financial matters, for example). Ask if there’s someone at the hospital who can advise you about things such as benefits.
- Jot down questions as they occur to you and take these with you when you see your doctor, consultant and nurse.
NHS Choices has a comprehensive guide to breast cancer, all in one place at www.nhs.uk Aimed at everyone ranging from those interested in lifestyle changes that could decrease the chances of developing breast cancer, to the newly diagnosed and the war weary, who have battled with the illness for a long time and are after inspiring stories from other sufferers.
For more information about breast cancer symptoms, causes and treatments to prevention & screening articles, visit www.nhs.uk
“Black and minority ethnic people have contributed greatly to the NHS for over 60 years since the Windrush era, this recognition by NHS Choices shows the appreciation to all those inspirational health heroes throughout the UK.”
As the UK enters Black History month, the national website of the NHS is putting the spotlight on black health heroes through its dedicated site www.nhs.uk/blackhistorymonth. The site profiles individuals from within the African and Caribbean community that are improving the health and lives of others. The site also provides information on conditions that have greater prevalence amongst the black population.
“Black and minority ethnic people have contributed greatly to the NHS for over 60 years since the Windrush era, this recognition by NHS Choices shows the appreciation to all those inspirational health heroes throughout the UK.”
The health heroes celebrated include Dr Tunji Lasoye an A&E consultant and surgeon in an inner city hospital. Rudolph Isaacs, a rare-type blood donor whose donations are especially vital to people who suffer with sickle cell anaemia, and the nursing trailblazer Nola Ishmael OBE.
Dr Comfort Momoh MBE, recently awarded for her work in the field of Female Genital Mutilation commented; “I don’t consider myself a health hero, just a woman angered by the significant number of girls subjected to Female Genital Mutilation and then faced with the difficult prospect of giving birth a few years down the line. However, It’s really encouraging to see the number of people of African and Caribbean heritage making strides within health and the recognition given by www.nhs.uk.”
According to statistics from NHS Information, the number of BME (black and minority ethnic) NHS staff is on the rise. Between 1999 and 2009 there has been an 11% increase of BME staff bringing the total to 41% BME last year.1
Barry Mussenden OBE, Deputy Director for Equality and Partnerships at the Department of Health says; “Black and minority ethnic people have contributed greatly to the NHS for over 60 years since the Windrush era, this recognition by NHS Choices shows the appreciation to all those inspirational health heroes throughout the UK.”
For more information about other health heroes, visit the NHS Choices website at www.nhs.uk/blackhistorymonth
Five Healthy Diet Myths
When it comes to healthy diet advice it can be a nightmare deciding what’s junk and what’s genuine.
It’s actually quite simple to get a balanced diet – just eat the right amount of foods from all the food groups. But every day we’re bombarded with celebrity diets, superfood fads and advertising pushing new ways to eat well and stay in shape. And not everything you read about healthy eating is true – so here are five common myths busted by the NHS.
Myth 1: ‘Foods labelled “low fat” are always a healthy choice’.
The reality: ‘Low fat’ foods can still pack plenty of calories. All the low-fat label really means is that this food is 30% lower in fat than the standard equivalent. So if the type of food in question is high in fat in the first place – like a doughnut – the low-fat version may also still be high in fat. Low-fat foods are often high in sugar too – so check the label carefully.
Myth 2: ‘Steer clear of starchy foods if you want to stay slim.’
The reality: Starchy foods such as rice, pasta, bread and potatoes should make up around one third of everything we eat. This means we should base our meals on these foods for a healthy, balanced diet.
Myth 3: ‘Eating less is the secret of a healthy diet.’
The reality: When it comes to healthy eating, balance is the key. While it’s true that many of us eat too much, a healthy diet means eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions. Most people eat too much fat, sugar and salt, and not enough fruit, vegetables and fibre.
Myth 4: ‘All fat is the same.’
The reality: Many of us would benefit from cutting down on all types of fat but swapping saturated for unsaturated fat can have health benefits.
Saturated fat – found in sausages, pies, cheese, butter and biscuits – can raise cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease. But unsaturated fat – found in oily fish, sunflower and olive oils – can help reduce cholesterol and provide essential nutrients. So, for a healthy diet, limit the total amount of fat you eat and switch to unsaturated fat where possible.
Myth 5: ‘I don’t add salt to my food, so I can’t be eating too much of it.’
The reality: Not salting your food is a good idea but three-quarters of the salt we eat is already in our food when we buy it.
Too much salt can raise blood pressure and increase your risk of stroke and heart problems. Adults shouldn’t eat more than six grams a day, so keep an eye on food labels.
These myth-busting tips are based on NHS-approved information from NHS Choices.
For more information on healthy eating, including tools to check your BMI and help you shop healthily, go to www.nhs.uk
Drugs – Who’s Doing What?
Illegal drugs are responsible for up to 1,600 deaths a year in the UK, and destroy thousands of relationships, families and careers. Find out about the most commonly used illegal drugs in England and Wales and the effects they can have on your health.
Did you know?
- Almost three million adults in England and Wales, or 8.6% of 16 to 59 year olds, have used illegal drugs in the last year according to the 2009-10 British Crime Survey (BCS).
- Among 16 to 24 year olds, the proportion of people who used drugs in the last year is considerably higher. The BCS estimates that about one in five young people, used one or more illegal drugs in the last year. However, use of illegal drugs in this age group has fallen since 2008-09 (22.6%).
- As in previous years, cannabis was the drug that was most likely to be used. Around one in fifteen 16 to 59 year olds said they had used cannabis in the last year. Health risks associated with cannibis use range from paranoia and loss of motivation to psychosis and lung disease.
- Powder cocaine and ecstasy were the second and third most commonly used drugs respectively. An estimated 2.4% of 16-59 year olds reported taking powder cocaine in the last year. Cocaine is highly addictive and is known to cause fits or heart attacks even in users who are young and healthy.
- Ecstasy was the third most used drug. The survey found that 1.6% of 16 to 59 year olds had taken ecstasy in the last year. Ecstasy can cause panic attacks or psychotic states and has been linked to has been linked to liver, kidney and heart problems.
- According to the survey, the most common age for first use of drugs was 16 for cannabis and 18 for powder cocaine. This has fallen since 2003-04, the last year for which figures are available, from 18 for cannabis and 20 for powder cocaine. The most common age for first use of ecstasy is 18 and remains unchanged since 2003-04.
For more information about drug use and the effects of drugs on your mind and body visit NHS Choices. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/drugs/
There are several sources of support if you or someone you know has a problem with drugs. Check out Drugs: where to get help on NHS Choices for an overview of the different services available.
Having a baby is one of the most exciting things that can happen, but parents-to-be might be feeling nervous as well. If it’s a first baby, it’s hard to know what to expect and you’ll want to know what’s normal for pregnancy and what’s not.
You might be unsure about any number of things like what women should and shouldn’t eat during pregnancy, dealing with common health problems and how your relationships might change.
Below is a brief list of things you need to know. For detailed information on everything you need to know about pregnancy and birth see the NHS Choices pregnancy care planner, with up-to-date advice on these topics and many more.
Women should take a 400 microgram folic acid supplement every day while trying to get pregnant and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. This can help prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
During pregnancy women need a healthy, balanced diet but not to eat for two. If you get hungry between meals, don’t have high fat and/or sugar snacks, such as biscuits, crisps or chocolate. Try salad vegetables, such as carrot or celery, or low-fat yoghurt, fresh fruit or baked potatoes.
Don’t eat mould-ripened cheese such as brie, or blue-veined cheese such as Danish blue, due to the risk of listeria infection. Don’t eat liver because it contains a lot of vitamin A. Too much vitamin A could harm the baby.
Alcohol and smoking
Avoid drinking alcohol if pregnant or trying to get pregnant, as too much exposure to alcohol can seriously affect the baby’s development. If you drink during pregnancy, don’t have more than one or two units once or twice a week. Smoking can harm the unborn baby, so if you smoke you should stop.
As soon as you know you’re pregnant, get in touch with a midwife or GP to organise antenatal (pregnancy) care. You can also find out about local antenatal classes, which will put you in touch with other mums-to-be and prepare you for parenthood. These may be run by your maternity service, midwife, GP or health centre.
Stay Safe With Chlamydia Prevention Advice
From NHS Choices
With fun times ahead as the festival and holiday season approaches, NHS Choices has compiled the following advice to help avoid catching Chlamydia this summer.
Chlamydia is the most commonly diagnosed sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the UK, affecting both men and women. Most people who have it will have no symptoms and without a test you will probably not know anything is wrong. If you or your sexual partner are left untreated it can cause infertility (not being able to have children) and long term pelvic pain. If you are sexually active and under 25 you should be tested for chlamydia annually. Around 65% (80,258) of all new chlamydia diagnoses made in recent years were in people aged between 16 and 24 years old.
The chlamydia infection can be easily diagnosed through a simple swab or urine test. Once diagnosed, it can be treated with antibiotics. Undiagnosed chlamydia can lead to more serious long-term health problems and infertility.
Chlamydia Prevention Tips
- use condoms every time you have sex. This can reduce your risk of getting or passing on chlamydia and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV.
- if you have oral sex, cover the penis with a condom or the female genitals with a latex or polyurethane (plastic) square (dam).
- if you are not sure how to use condoms correctly, there are normally instructions in the packet.
- each time you have a new sexual partner, both of you should get a chlamydia test.
- have a chlamydia test every year while you are under 25.
- avoid sharing sex toys. If you do share sex toys, wash them or cover them with a new condom before anyone else uses them.
- If you do have chlamydia remember to also:
- take all the tablets you are given.
- tell your partner(s) and advise them to be tested and treated. You can get a free, confidential chlamydia test at your local GP or contact a local GUM (genitourinary medicine) or sexual health clinic to arrange a test.
For more information on Chlamydia symptoms, please visit the Chlamydia section of the NHS Choices website.
Five Things You Need to Know
about Skin Health
Your skin protects you, heals itself and lasts a lifetime.
Find how to give it some skin care in return, to help keep it looking and feeling its best.
Acne doesn’t just happen to teenagers
There are lots of myths around acne, including the idea that it only happens to teenage skin. This is not true – acne can develop in adults too. Find out about the treatments available if it happens to you, and whether your eating or skin care habits could be to blame.
Smoking makes your skin look older
Along with growing older and sun damage, smoking plays a part in creating wrinkles. It’s thought this may be because smoking reduces the amount of skin-plumping collagen (a protein that supports skin’s strength), leading to fine lines and wrinkles forming. You can help to delay the appearance of wrinkles by not smoking.
Find out other tips on keeping skin as healthy as possible.
Changes to a mole can be dangerous
If a mole changes, for example it grows, bleeds or changes colour, a doctor needs to check it for cancer warning signs. In addition, you can use the mole checker tool to see whether any of your moles could be risky and need a medical opinion. Sun damage increases your risk of skin cancer, so make sure you know the latest skin care tips to protect your skin from the sun and prevent sunburn.
Skin lightening creams can harm your skin
Non-prescription creams that claim to lighten your skin colour could contain banned ingredients that damage your skin. Over-the-counter creams like these have been found to contain steroids and hydroquinone, a substance banned from use in cosmetics. Prescription creams containing steroids can be used to treat some conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis, but this must be supervised by a skin specialist.
You don’t need to risk sunburn to get vitamin D
Sunlight on skin is our main source of vitamin D, essential for healthy bones. The amount of time you need in the sun to make enough vitamin D is different for everyone, and depends on things like skin type and the time of day. But you don’t need to sunbathe – the amount of sun you need to make enough vitamin D is less than the amount that causes tanning or burning. Find out more about sun protection.
Five Drinking Myths
There are so many stories around alcohol and drinking that it’s hard to know what to believe.
Knowing the facts about how drinking affects your body is the best way to make sure you drink safely.
Below are some common myths around drinking. Read on to find out the real facts about alcohol.
MYTH: Drinking makes sex better
TRUTH: Alcohol can help you avoid feeling awkward or can help you feel more confident. But it can keep men from getting or keeping an erection, and it can reduce sex drive. More importantly, you might put yourself in a risky situation or you might not use a condom, putting you at greater risk of a sexually transmitted disease or an unwanted pregnancy [http://www.nhs.uk/planners/pregnancycareplanner].
MYTH: Beer gets you less drunk.
TRUTH: An average pint of beer (ABV 5%), large glass of wine (250ml, ABV 11%) or a ‘large’ double vodka (70ml, ABV 38 to 40%) all have around 2.8 units of alcohol [http://www.nhs.uk/Tools/Pages/Alcoholcalculator.aspx]. This is what makes you drunk chemically, and the faster you drink the full 2.8 units, the higher your peak blood level.
MYTH: Switching between beer, wine, and spirits will make you more drunk.
TRUTH: Your blood alcohol [http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/alcohol] content is what determines how drunk you are. Mixing drinks may make you sicker by upsetting your stomach, but not more intoxicated.
MYTH: A big meal before you drink will keep you sober.
TRUTH: Drinking on a full stomach will delay alcohol getting into your system, not prevent it. However, it is best to eat a proper meal before a night out, especially foods rich in carbohydrates and proteins.
MYTH: Your body develops a tolerance to alcohol, so you can safely drink more
TRUTH: The more you drink the more damage your body will sustain and the greater the risks become. Tolerance to alcohol can actually be seen as a warning sign that your body has started to be affected by too much drinking.
Alcohol’s hidden harms usually only emerge after a number of years. And by then, serious health problems [http://www.nhs.uk/conditions] can have developed.
Keeping to NHS recommended limits will reduce the risk of alcohol harming your health:
- Men should not exceed 3-4 units a day on a regular basis;
- Women should not exceed 2-3 units a day on a regular basis.
Find out more about drinking and health at NHS Choices http://www.nhs.uk/alcohol/
Six Warning Signs of Cancer
More than 1/3 people in the UK will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime!
More than 1/3 people in the UK will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime.
The good news is that some cancers can be cured if detected early enough.
The key is to be aware of unexplained changes to your body, and to know the common signs and symptoms of cancer.
While many cancer symptoms are common of other illnesses and usually nothing to worry about, you should see your GP if you have any of the below warning signs.
This is so your GP can check your symptoms and either rule out cancer, or get you treated immediately. You have a better change of defeating cancer if caught early.
Typical signs and symptoms of cancer.
1: A lump
See your GP if you notice a lump anywhere on your body. Your GP will refer you to a specialist for tests if they suspect cancer.
2: Coughing, breathlessness and hoarseness
See your GP if you’ve had a cough or felt breathless for more than two weeks, or if you have blood in your phlegm.
3: Change in bowel habits
See your GP if you’ve experienced one of the below changes and it’s lasted for more than a few weeks:
- blood in your stools
- diarrhoea or constipation for no obvious reason
- a feeling of not having emptied your bowel properly after going to the toilet
- pain in your abdomen (tummy) or back passage
See your GP about any unexplained bleeding, such as:
- blood in your urine
- bleeding between periods
- blood from your back passage
- blood when you cough
- blood in your vomit
See your GP if you have a mole that:
- has an irregular or asymmetrical shape
- has an irregular border with jagged edges
- has more than one colour (it may be flecked with brown, black, red, pink or white)
- is bigger then 7mm in diameter
- is itchy, crusting or bleeding
6: Unexplained weight loss
See your GP if you’ve lost a lot of weight over the past months that cannot be explained by your diet, exercise or stress.
Weighing up Your Options
– NHS Choices
There is no single acne treatment that’s best for everyone.
The right treatment for you will depend on many things, such as how severe your acne is and whether you can accept the side effects.
For example, severe acne can often be cleared with a medicine called isotretinoin – but did you know it can cause serious birth defects in women?
If you’re aware of the pros and cons of different acne treatments, you will be fully informed when discussing the best way to clear your spots with your doctor.
So here’s a summary of the main considerations for each treatment.
And when you’ve decided which looks like the right treatment for you, read about how it works, the possible complications of acne, a patient’s account, and the NHS Choices information on acne.
Option 1: Gel or cream to unblock pores and kill bacteria
Pros: available in pharmacies; effective in treating mild acne
Cons: can stain sheets and clothes; can make skin more sensitive to sunlight and cause mild burning, itchiness, redness of skin
Option 2: Vitamin A gel or cream
Pros: effective clearing whiteheads, blackheads and smaller spots
Cons: not suitable in pregnancy; can make skin more sensitive to sunlight and cause mild irritation and stinging of skin
Option 3: Antibiotic gel or cream
Pros: effective treating inflamed spots; less irritation to the skin than other acne creams or gels
Cons: may be less effective on blackheads and whiteheads; can only be used for up to eight weeks due to antibiotic resistance
Option 4: Azelaic acid gel or cream
Pros: effective for mild acne; does not make skin sensitive to sunlight
Cons: month before symptoms improve; can cause mild burning, stinging, dryness, itchiness of the skin
Option 5: Antibiotic medicines
Pros: effective in treating mild to severe acne
Cons: six weeks before symptoms improve; makes contraceptive pill less effective; can only be used for six months due to the risk of antibiotic resistance; can make skin more sensitive to sunlight and cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, mild stomach pains
Option 6: Isotretinoin
Pros: effective in treating severe acne
Cons: can only be prescribed by a dermatologist; high risk of causing serious birth defects; can cause dry lips, nosebleeds, headaches, inflammation of the eyelids, skin rashes, muscle, joint and bone pain, blood in urine