Summer is certainly closing in and with it the allure of barbeques, pub gardens and, of course, glorious sunny days. While we like those sun-soaked days as much as the next person, it’s important to remember the adverse effects the sun can have on your skin. This week is Sun Awareness Week and there’s no better time to remind everyone of the risks that come with this lovely weather.
In a recent survey from the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD), 84% of dermatologists think that people in the UK have an unhealthy relationship with tanning. A previous survey from BAD found that many people in the UK were aware of the risks of excessive sun exposure but, with skin cancer rates continuing to rise, it appears that behaviour in this hotter weather has not changed to reflect this.
In addition to this, a talkhealth survey found that 12% of respondents never bother applying sun protection, with the most common reasons for this being they don’t spend a lot of time in the sun, they don’t see the point, and some are even put off by the price.
Skin cancer is by far one of the most common cancers in the UK and this comes down to a combination of an older population in the UK as well as social and cultural which play a part, such as more affordable foreign holidays, use of sunbeds, and attitudes towards tanned skin.
Two-thirds of dermatologists (66 per cent) felt that their patients had a better understanding of the link between UV exposure and skin cancer than between UV exposure and skin ageing. However, one-third (34 per cent) felt that people who tan excessively are more likely to change their behaviour in response to warnings about skin ageing than about skin cancer, while only 10 per cent thought that the inverse was true. The remainder felt that both carried equal weight, or neither was influential.
As part of this new public health messaging campaign the BAD is launching The ‘Don’t Bake’ Bake, encouraging people to bake cakes, instead of their skin. The bake has been set up to help educate the public on best sun safety practices and how to spot the warning signs of skin cancer early, with take-home information available at every event venue. It was also set up to help raise funds for the BAD’s public facing skin disease prevention initiatives.
Bad have also included some hints and tips to help avoid adverse effects from the sun, and checking for skin cancer:
Sun protection tips:
1. Spend time in the shade during the sunniest part of the day when the sun is at its strongest, which is usually between 11am and 3pm in the summer months.
2. Avoid direct sun exposure for babies and very young children.
3. When it is not possible to limit your time in the sun, keeping yourself well covered, with a hat, T-shirt, and sunglasses, can give you additional protection.
4. Apply sunscreen liberally to exposed areas of skin. Re-apply every two hours and straight after swimming, sweating or towelling to maintain protection.
Checking for skin cancer:
There are two main types of skin cancer: non-melanoma, the most common, and melanoma, which is less common but more dangerous. The following ABCDE rules describe a few changes that might indicate a ‘melanoma’, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer. As skin cancers vary, you should tell your doctor about any changes to your skin, even if they are not like those mentioned here.
Asymmetry – the two halves of the area may differ in shape or colour
Border – the edges of the area may be irregular or blurred, and sometimes show notches
Colour – this may be uneven. Several different shades of black, brown and pink may be seen
Diameter – most melanomas are at least 6mm in diameter. Report any change in size, shape or diameter to your doctor
Evolution – if you see progressive changes in size, shape or colour over weeks or a few months, you must seek Expert help.
If in doubt, check it out! If your GP is concerned about your skin, make sure you see a dermatologist. Your GP can refer you via the NHS.
If you want to explore more issues surrounding skin conditions and problems arising from this sunny weather, you can head over to our forums and continue the conversation.
Why is it easy to recall the location and purpose of some organs and more difficult for others? Perhaps it is because you can see a person breathing, or can hear someone’s heartbeat. The pancreas may work quietly in the body but it is in fact a very important organ and unfortunately, we only tend to hear about it when something goes wrong with it.
Only half of patients have heard of pancreatic cancer before their diagnosis; so by knowing where the pancreas is, what it does, and what might happen when there is something wrong with it, you could help someone receive the early diagnosis they need in time for potentially life saving surgery.
Where is the pancreas?
It is located deep inside the body, behind the stomach and in front of the spine.
What does the pancreas look like?
It is an organ about 6 inches long and shaped like a pear lying on its side. The wider end of the pancreas is called the head, the middle section is called the body, and the narrow end is called the tail.
What does the pancreas do?
It has two main jobs using two types of glands:
Making enzymes to help break down foods (using exocrine glands).
Making hormones, such as insulin and glucagon, which control blood sugar levels (using endocrine glands).
In this way, the pancreas helps the body use and store the energy it gets from food.
The pancreas is located deep inside the body.
A tube called the pancreatic duct connects the pancreas to the first part of the small intestine, known as the duodenum. Digestive enzymes pass through this tube to help break down food.
Another tube, called the common bile duct, passes through the head of the pancreas. This tube carries bile – a substance that helps to digest fats – from the liver and gall bladder to the small intestine. The bile duct may get blocked when a pancreatic tumour invades it. This causes jaundice (yellowing of the eyes, skin and dark urine), one of the six key symptoms of pancreatic cancer.
This week I had a call from a lovely lady at my local doctors surgery to tell me that I would no longer be able to get anti-histamines on prescription.
Just an average month of prescriptions for the allergic girl
Why? Because I can get them over the counter. Well yes, technically, I CAN get antihistamines over the counter, but not the ones I am prescribed where I can get a box with lots in, and also stronger doses than the over the counter drugs. So I’ll need to buy more for one dose!
At my local chemists I can pay anything from £7 to £14 for a small number of between 12 and 24 tablets, or buy the liquid stuff, which works really well for me.
When you’re paying in advance for a Prescription Prepayment Certificate it makes living with a long term health condition manageable. If I had to pay a single charge for every item I got monthly on prescription from tubs of emollient, to two inhalers, antihistamines, adrenaline, steroids and immuno suppressants… I’d be penniless!
I would struggle to afford the drugs I need to stay healthy at the moment.
I know the NHS is struggling and probably needs to make cut backs but this is the very system which got me addicted to steroids at a young age in the first place. This the very system which never treated any of my allergic conditions, instead throwing drugs at me.
This system is now slowly letting me go, showing me I may need to cope alone.
I am facing the terrifying proposition of trying to wean myself off topical steroids as their effectiveness begins to diminish and my skin needs ever more frequent doses to just keep under control. Just google TSW for some real horror stories. I’m going it alone and won’t do this without medical supervision and help. They got me into this mess, they can bloomin well help me out.
I will be pushing back and speaking to my doctor about his but the lady who phoned was just doing her job, it wasn’t her fault. I told her I wasn’t happy but there was nothing she could do. She said she would ‘see what she could do’ but it was very much in a voice which said… don’t hold you breathe and I probably won’t tell anyone how you feel.
I annoyed about this but it just makes me sad. I will hopefully keep on getting these because I’m not going away quietly but why should I have to fight? There will be other people who cannot fight or don’t have the confidence.
Perhaps I will not have to add £30-40 to my monthly expenditure on antihistamines to get me through the hayfever season and incessant itching of eczema skin and allergic reactions.
But on the other hand, perhaps I will have to stump up yet more cash just to lead a normal life?
Has anyone else had this call? Can you still get antihistamines on prescription? Is this widespread?
Should I be paying for them? Or am I within my rights to demand this is still available to me?
Welcome to another week of talkhealth’s news round-up. This week, we will be looking at news around a new drug that could help cure male baldness, how delays in cancer treatment are having a huge impact on patients, and new movements in the world of diet and exercise. Take a look at each of these topics in more detail below.
Going bald can have a huge emotional and mental impact on an individual. For many men across the country baldness is a concern and worry, so recent research around a potential new cure is very promising.
Researchers have found that a drug originally intended to treat osteoporosis could unlock the cure to baldness. The drug contains a compound which targets a key protein responsible for slowing down hair growth and plays a role in baldness.
While more research needs to be done, this is a step in the right direction for the very real issue of male baldness. In addition to this, there is also a recent article which delves into why there is a stigma around male baldness in the first place, citing societal pressures as one of the main causes.
If you are affected by hair loss we want to hear your experiences. Take part in our latest survey and you could be in with the chance of winning a bundle of hair goodies.
As a result of this 1 in 6 patients is now waiting much longer than they should to begin treatment. Identifying and beginning cancer procedures as early as possible has been proven to increase chances of successful treatment.
Alongside this, new research has found that rather than growing aggressively, cancer can slow down and speed up its growth. This often means that cancer can lay dormant before accelerating its development. It’s clear that more work needs to be done to help identify and treat cancer at the earliest possible stage to avoid a dormant stage before it grows aggressively.
If you want to find out more about cancer, take a look at our blog section around the subject.
Diet and exercise
Amongst the diet news this week, Sadiq Khan, the Major of London, has outlined proposals to ban all junk food adverts present on the London underground. Khan has stated that this is in an effort to tackle “ticking time bomb” of childhood obesity in the city. With childhood obesity in the city, and the UK in general, on the rise this forms part of a massive reform on junk food. Only last month, new sugar taxation on fizzy drinks was introduced in an effort to curb the problem of obesity in the country.
Another scheme which is well underway is the Daily Mile project. This school-based initiative aims to get younger children active during their school day. Adopted by over 3,600 schools worldwide, researchers have found that the scheme has been extremely beneficial to students taking part – highlighting the key role exercise plays in a healthy lifestyle.
If you want to find out more about diet and exercise, take a look at our talkweight section of the website, which includes further advice and articles.
There we have it for this week’s news round-up. If you want to continue the conversation on any of the topics covered here, head to our forums.
And it has always baffled me why there is a huge disconnect between asthma funding and allergy funding. The two are so intricately linked that it just seems crazy not to share resources, not least to prevent so many people suffering needlessly and being prescribed endless and increasing doses of steroids for what could be an allergy in the first place.
What causes asthma? It’s never a simple answer but I wonder how many of these asthma deaths could have been avoided had those patients been tested for allergies; thus understanding better what those triggers might be.
About four years ago I finally had a soya allergy diagnosed after worsening asthma. I didn’t think for a moment that I could be allergic to one of the very plant milks suggested in replacement of the cow’s milk that I was already allergic to, but cutting out soya led to a dramatic reduction in my asthma symptoms.
It’s not rocket science.
Many of my allergies cause asthma as a direct symptom including; hayfever, dust allergy, latex, soya, milk and nuts.
Asthma gets lots of funding and I am regularly seen by an asthma nurse to keep my asthma under control but this is not the case for allergy treatment. I am very lucky to see a dermatologist who also treats me for my allergies but not everyone is so lucky, and getting to even have allergy testing can be impossible in certain areas of the country.
Why are we so behind our neighbours in Europe?
Will this report to lead to changes? Or will we still be talking about this in ten years time?
I suspect the latter… I find myself blogging over and over again about the same things year in year out because nothing does seem to change much. Apologies for the pessimistic comment there but it’s true.
And this is why I blog, because by doing this I can maybe help a few people not to feel so alone in the struggle for answers and normal life. Strive not to be normal people!
If you follow the news you will have no doubt seen the recent pictures of the magician Dynamo. He took to social media to show the effects that the steroids used to fight his Crohns Disease, were having on his physical appearance. The photos showed the typical, bloated ‘moonface’ that many of us who are on, or have received steroid treatments, will know too well.
My Journey With Steroids
I, like Dynamo, suffer from Crohns Disease. I also have rheumatoid arthritis and iritis. For these three illnesses, steroids are commonly used to reduce the inflammation associated with a flare. My earliest experiences of steroids, as a child, were all injection based. I would regularly have intra-joint injections of steroids to help treat them when flaring with my arthritis. These injections, although unpleasant, would generally help settle down a joint that was giving me problems.
Aged seven I was diagnosed with iritis. This causes inflammation of the iris and common in children who have been diagnosed with arthritis. The treatment for this was steroid eye drops. Occasionally – apologies to the squeamish – I would also have them injected into my eyes.
My first experience of being given a course of steroid tablets is one I will never forget. I was 18 and having a severe flare of my iritis. My ophthalmologist thought that, alongside the eye drops, a course of steroid tablets would be needed to get it under control. Iritis can cause blindness, so it is important to get the flare sorted as quickly as possible. I was sent home on 80mg a day, never imagining the side effects that I would experience.
At the time I was working as a nursery nurse. I loved my job, and went straight back to it after my appointment was over and I had taken the first dose. That night, I barely slept but didn’t think much of it. When it happened the second and third night, I found myself getting more and more poorly. I felt like I was going crazy – no sleep and the worst feeling of being down that I had ever experienced. I finally went to see my GP and cried and cried. I didn’t know what was happening to my mind or body. He explained that the steroids I had been given were causing these symptoms and that I was on an extremely high dose. He signed me off work, slashed the dose down by half and got in touch with my ophthalmologist to follow me up ASAP.
At the time my knowledge was limited and not what it is now. I was so scared and also frustrated that these extremely common side effects had not been mentioned to me.
At the age of 22 and after having my first baby, I started having severe issues with my left hip. It wasn’t a joint (one of the only ones) that my arthritis affected and I was sent to orthopaedics to have it checked out. Turned out that the steroids over the years had caused a condition called avascular necrosis in my hip bone, basically killing off the blood supply to the majority of the ball part of the ball and socket joint. Aged 22 and a half I received a total hip replacement and one huge scar!
There was yet more to come. I had struggled with bowel problems since the age of 8 or 9, which were often put down to the medications I was on for my arthritis. Aged 26 these problems got much worse and I was sent for a colonoscopy and then diagnosed with Crohns Disease. The treatment to get my flare under control? You guessed it – a course of steroids.
I was put on 40mg to start with and then had to taper them down over the coming weeks. You can’t just stop taking steroids and have to drop your dose gradually in order to give your adrenal gland the chance to kick in and start producing cortisol by themselves again. Unfortunately, I had been on them almost continually since my second son had been born the year before as they couldn’t get my arthritis under control, and haven’t been off them since. Seven years and counting!
Living On Steroids
Steroids have ravaged my body, I also now suffer with ostopenia (the precursor to osteoporosis) due to my long term use of them. I struggle with insomnia and night sweats. I have needed cataract surgery for a cataract which was caused by the steroid eye drops I have used over the years to treat my iritis. I am on two other medications to help with the side effects of the prednisilone (the type of steroid I am on). During three major flares which have resulted in hospital stays, I have been hooked up to IV steroids. My appetite is huge and I have gained weight. And finally, after a severe flare last year and large doses of IV steroids on top of my tablets, I now have the dreaded moonface.
Steroid ‘moonface’ in full swing
My ‘normal’ face
Somehow, being able to physically see the effects these medications have on you, right there every day in the mirror, makes it all so much harder to deal with. This is not to say that I am not grateful to the steroids I have been given over the years. They work wonderfully well at what they do, it’s just a shame, that for some, the side effects can be so numerous and severe. Unfortunately they are a necessary evil when suffering from auto-immune conditions as I am.
I am finally on a reducing plan to get me off the devil’s tic-tacs (Crohnsfighting’s perfect nickname for them) for good. Because of the length of time I have been on them, it may not be possible to stop them completely. For now I am on a very slow plan to wean my body off them. My sleeping is already improving although I am still struggling with the night sweats and increased appetite. For anyone on them, or asked to start them, here are my top tips for you –
TAKE THEM IN THE MORNING – This is the best way to ensure they don’t interrupt your sleep
WORK WITH YOUR DOCTOR ON A REDUCING PLAN – Have a clear plan in place when you are put on the steroids. Know how much you are taking, and when to lower the dose
SIDE EFFECTS – Make sure your doctor also prescribes a calcium supplement to help protect your bones and something to protect your stomach (I am on Omeprazole but there are a couple of others that can be used for people who cant have that)
MOOD CHANGES – Steroids can alter your mood so see your doctor ASAP if you experience this and are struggling mentally
NEVER JUST STOP TAKING THEM – It’s dangerous! Your body needs to wean off them slowly. If you are struggling with side effects, see your doctor as soon as possible rather than just stopping taking them and they can advise on what to do
A study published today in the BMJ suggests that there is little good evidence on the benefits of emollient bath additives, although the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends regular use of “emollient wash products” for children with eczema.
The NICE guideline is probably why emollient bath additives are commonly prescribed, costing the English NHS more than £17m a year in primary care alone. But do emollient bath additives really reduce the severity of eczema and improve quality of life, in conjunction with standard care?
talkhealth will be launching MyEczemaChild Patient Support Programme within the next few weeks. The programme is free to join and will provide you with 24 weeks of medically written, practical help and support to assist you in managing your child’s eczema.
May 2018 is Bladder Cancer Awareness Month. It is a global campaign aimed at focusing attention on bladder cancer.
Throughout the month talkhealth will be supporting the charity, Fight Bladder Cancer who are highlighting the impact of bladder cancer, promoting awareness of the symptoms and urging greater investment in research.
In Europe over 150,000 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer every year. It is the fifth biggest cancer in the western world, but receives only a tiny amount of the funding available for cancer. It is the ‘forgotten cancer’.
A little guide for you this Bladder Cancer Awareness Month, from The Urology Foundation.
In the UK, there are over 10,000 new cases of bladder cancer diagnosed every year and nearly 5,000 people die from the disease each year. It affects men more than women, meaning that it is the fourth most common cancer in men and 12th most common in women.
How to know if you might have bladder cancer
Below are some signs that could indicate bladder cancer.
Blood in your urine: this is the most common symptom of bladder cancer. It won’t necessarily happen every time you pee and can sometimes disappear for weeks or months. You should look out for pee that looks anywhere from rusty to deep red.
Pain or burning when peeing: don’t panic if this happens to you quite rarely; it could just be because you haven’t drunk enough and your urine hasn’t been diluted enough. However, if this is a regular problem for you, that’s when you have cause for concern.
An increased need to urinate: if you find yourself going to the bathroom a lot more than you used to, this could be another indication of bladder cancer
Feeling the need to pee, but without anything coming through: another indication would be that you desperately need to use the toilet, but when you go, nothing happens
Each of these symptoms could indicate bladder cancer, but please don’t panic, as these could also be symptoms for a variety of other medical conditions.
What you should do next
Because these symptoms could mean a variety of problems, it’s important that you don’t perform a self-diagnosis. Your next step should be to see your GP.
Your GP will conduct a variety of tests that could include a urine test, a blood test, and a physical examination of your stomach and your pelvis (this might include the vagina in women, and the rectum in men).
Your GP will use these results to decide whether you should be referred to a urologist, where you’ll be able to get the treatment you need.
To mark World IBD Day, talkhealth will be teaming up with @JanssenEMEA to host our latest Tweet Chat, on Friday May 18th between 1PM and 2PM. We’ll be putting questions out to the Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) community to raise awareness and help others to understand what it’s like to live with the condition.
Be sure to use the hashtag #TalkIBD to follow the conversation on the day. If you’d like to find out more about IBD, Janssen has created a series of animated videos in collaboration with the European Federation of Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis Associations (EFCCA). These videos follow three characters living with IBD and their journey through life, take a look at the videos below:
My IBD Journey: Daily Life - YouTube
My Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Journey: life after IBD diagnosis - YouTube
We hope you get involved in the Tweet Chat; make sure to follow @talkhealth and @JanssenEMEA to get the full conversation as it happens! If you want to get involved with the Tweet Chat, drop us an email: email@example.com.