Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Curing Cancer - The Progress Being Made

Hello everyone,

Whenever the subject of my volntary work comes up there is a question I am normally asked: when is there going to be a cure for cancer? The straight answer I always give is, there will not be a single cure for cancer but there are, and will be, many smaller cures based on specific cancer types.

I have decided that a nice positive post focusing on the incredible progress being made in the fight against cancer is required to show people that there is progress being made, even if cancer is heard of now more then ever. I have been very impressed to research some of the incredible things Cancer Research have achieved and I am going to share some of them today. I hate it when people say no progress is being made, cancer is a horrific enemy and it will take slow and steady steps forward to beat it – we make those steps every day through the incredible work being done by CRUK and all the other charities out there. Believe me, I know it’s hard to remain positive but we are getting there slowly.

I am going to split this into individual cancer types and I hope this post fills you with some sort of hope knowing that progress is being made.

Lung Cancer:
Thirty thousand people die from lung cancer every year in the UK. Eighty percent of this deaths are related to smoking. As regular readers of this blog will know, myself and my amazing fellow Cancer Campaigns Ambassadors work with CRUK to help lower this horrific number. CRUK has made huge huge progress with this and I’m very proud to be a part of it. The scary fact is half of all long term smokers die a premature death due to their nicotine addiction. Smokers lose around ten years of their life on average.

CRUK works very hard to educate people on the dangers of smoking with medical advice and by influcing public policy. They have funded treatment which has been used to shape the NHS Stop Smoking Service. They are also avid supporters of National Non Smoking Day.

CRUK (and us Ambassadors) use their research to campaign and try to influence government policy:
*During the 1990’s CRUK funded research to support a ban on cigarette advertising.
*They were instrumental in seeing the smoking ban across the UK during 2006-2007, something that been predicted to save around forty thousand deaths per year in the UK. Research also suggests childhood asthma rates have fallen since the introduction of the smoking ban.
*”Out of sight out of mind” was my first campaign with CRUK. This played a major role in the removal of cigarette displays in larger retailers as well as cigarette vending machines.
*Our current campaign is “The Answer is Plain” which is aimed at preventing as many children and young people as possible from starting smoking in the first place. Research suggests plain packs will help protect the younger and future generations from the dangers of tobacco.

CRUK and their tenacious and passionate campaigning and research has helped reduce smoking rates by about twenty five percent during the past decade and this prevents thousands of cases of lung cancer every year.

Smoking is a huge cause of lung cancer but it isn’t the only one. CRUK also funds research into the presence of radioactive gas in the home, which could increase cases of lung cancer. They have also funded research in asbestos and this research is helping health and saftely officials save future lives.

As well as research into preventing cancer, CRUK has also provided research into treating lung cancer. They were involved in the development and testing of an array of drugs including Cisplatin and Etopside, both of which are commonly used to treat cancer of the lungs. They also developed a form of radiotherapy known as CHART4 which is used for lung cancer.

Breast Cancer:
Thousands and thousands of people in the UK now survive breast cancer thanks to huge advances in diagnosing, treating and preventing this form of cancer. Eighty percent of woman now survive the disease whereas only fifty percent would survive in the 1970’s.

CRUK researchers have been instrumental in discovering faulty genes that can lead to a heightened risk of developing breast cancer, including the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

In 2012 it was discovered that breast cancer can be split into ten subtypes. This was a huge step forward and is allowing scientists to understand the disease more and work out how best to diagnose and treat breast cancer sufferers in the future.

CRUK has provided research into lifestyle factors that can increase a persons risk of breast cancer. This research allows the charity to empower people with the knowledge of how to look after their bodies and try and lower their risk of developing the disease. HRT, obesity and  alcohol consumption have all been found to increase the risk of breast cancer, whilst exercise has been proven to lower the risk.

CRUK’s research also contributed to the development of the UK’s national breast screening programme and they continue to research ways to improve the programme. This screening saves lives.

Lifesaving drugs have also been research and developed as a result of CRUK research. Trials into Tamoxifen was funded by CRUK.

Cervical Cancer:
Research into cervical cancer has led to thousands of women surviving the diease. Two thirds of women diagnosed will survive now whereas less then half of those diagnosed in the 1970’s survived longer then ten years after diagnosis.

CRUK funded research into the causes of cervical cancer. They have discovered that smoking, taking the contraceptive pill, having a high number of sexual partners and having sex at a young age can all increase your risk. They also investigated the links between HPV and cervical cancer and found it to be the primary cause of cervical cancer across the world.

Smear tests have led to cervical cancer rates plummeting in the UK over the past two decades. These tests allow doctors to prevent cervical cancer and treat any abnormal cells promptly. CRUK research was responsible for the earliest studied into smears and this laid the foundations for the current screening programme. Research has shown that this programme is highly effective and prevents THOUSANDS of cancer cases every year.

HPV testing is due to be introduced to the UK one day soon as CRUK trials have been successful. This will improve the screening programme and save even more lives.

Childhood Cancer:
Only a quarter of childhood cancer sufferers would survive in the 1960’s. Three quarters of childhood cancer sufferers survive now.

CRUK were involved in a ten year study which has dramatically improved neuroblastoma survival rates by two thirds.

Almost every child diagnosed with retinoblastoma now survives the disease thanks to CRUK research amongst other things.

CRUK have been instrumental in researching genes which can cause childhood cancer including the genes involved in Wilms tumours.

They discovered that woman frequently given x-rays whilst pregnant are more likely to have children who develop lymphoma or leukaemia and this led to x-rays being limited during pregnancy.

This is just come of the incredible progress being made. I don’t want to make this post too long and bombard you with too much information in one go so I will continue in another post at a later date.

All your generous donations and all the time dedicated to cancer charities does help save lives. The research being carried out is very real and it is developing new ways to diagnose, treat and prevent cancer. Cancer will be a thing of the past one day and that day will arrive if we continue to support these incredible charities and the hugely vital work they carry out every day.

Please read this post and realise that although it doesn’t look like much is being done on the outside and people are still dying of cancer, progress is being made.

This post is dedicated to my cousin Georgie, my godfather/uncle Sotiris, my auntie Eleni, my godmother/auntie Gina and my paternal grandparents Alexandra and Peter. Research wasn’t able to save them but I know the work I help do in their memory is making them proud wherever they are now. It is also dedicated to the people I love, I work with CRUK because I am determined to never lose another loved one to this horrific disease.


Cancer Treatments - Complimentary and Alternative Therapies

Hello everyone,
Lots of my friends believe in natural and alternative therapies. I find this subject interesting. I myself try to use natual remedies when I have a cold, or other minor ailments, as my mum always taught me to only use medication when you are very sick. However, When it comes to cancer, natural treatments are not standalone cancer cures. However, some therapies appear to aid cancer treatment and cancer sufferers so I have done some research and will focus on this in today’s post.

The confusing thing is people tend to treat “complimentary therapies” and “alternative therapies” as if one and the same. This is slightly misleading so I have decided to explain them both individually.

Complementary therapies are used ALONGSIDE conventional treatment to help you cope with the side effects or to ease them if possible. They are not cures and should not be used instead of conventional treatment such as chemotherapy.

Alternative therapies are usually used INSTEAD of conventional treatment options. Conventional treatments will have been tested and proven to work before being given the go ahead to be widely used. Most alternative therapies have not been through the same purpose and have not been scientifically proven to work. Some have harmful side effects and most will not cure you.

You must always seek medical advice before using any form of alternative or complementary therapy. You must also discuss your cancer and treatment with the therapist in charge of the complementary or alternative therapy.

Complementary Therapies:
Complimentary therapies are supposed to be used alongside conventional cancer treatments to help the sufferer deal with the side effects of the treatment. They can also improve quality of life and ease the symptoms.

Complementary therapies should not be used instead of conventional treatment and a good complimentary therapist should always make that clear and encourage you to see advice from your doctor and medical team beforehand.

Complimentary therapies include:
*Herbal Medicine
*Massage Therapy

Many health professionals know that these therapies can help cancer sufferers and are in support of them being used alongside conventional treatment. However, some are reluctant to encourage their patients to use them and this is because many have not yet been scientifically proven. Research is being carried out to see how they work and these studies will help the medical world to fully understand the best ways to use complementary therapies.

Alternative therapies are used instead of conventional treatment. This could be for a number of reasons such as the patient not wanting to have conventional treatment or a patient not having success with conventional treatment and wishing to try another way.

It is a alarming to note how many people claim alternative therapies have cured cancer or can cure cancer. A trustworthy therapist would never encourage someone to seek alternative therapy in place of conventional treatment and it is actually quite dangerous for people to claim conventional treatments are harmful and alternatives are safer and more reliable. So far there is no medical or scientific evidence to support this claim and some alternative therapies are actually very harmful and very expensive. Some may even stop conventional treatment being effective in fighting cancer. People are very clever and are able to make these treatments seem like miracles which attract people with no hope. This is false advertisement and incredibly misleading. Please always seek medical advice if you are thinking of going down this road.

Using Complementary Therapies:
Around a third of UK cancer patients use some kind of complimentary therapy. There is no evidence that they cure the cancer or prevent it from occurring in the first place but many are drawn to seek complementary therapies to help them deal with the side effects and symptoms of their cancer. Some help you reduce stress and can encourage relaxation and some are able to calm you and relieve anxiety. They can also help you feel more in control of your illness. Some will reduce the amount of pain you are in. ALWAYS seek medical advice and do your research before using any complimentary therapy. Be open with your therapies about your cancer type, your treatment and your life as these will all factor into your complimentary therapy.

I hope this post has made you more informed of the kind of therapies available, I will focus on some individually. Please do take my advice and seek medical assistance before embarking on any kind of complementary therapy and DEFINITELY seek advice from your medical team before considering any alternative therapies. I know sometimes it can seem like there is a miracle and some people are very persuasive, but it is always better to trust your doctor.


Cancer Treatments - Surgery

 Hello everyone,
I hope you are enjoying the festive period. It always goes so quickly despite the weeks of preparation.
I’m going to continue to focus on treatment options today and today’s blog post will concentrate on surgery.
Surgery literally means cutting tissue from the body. This can be a relatively simple procedure done as an outpatient, or it can be more complicated and result in a stay as an inpatient. Sometimes you will have local anesthetic and be awake for the procedure, other times you will be knocked out with general anesthetic.
Cancer and Surgery:
Surgery is used in many ways when it comes to cancer:
A biopsy can be used to diagnose cancer. This means a small piece of tissue will be removed by a surgeon to be analyzed. If this contains cancerous cells then it may be able to show what type of cancer and how aggressive it is.
Surgery is one of the most important treatments for cancer. As I repeat often, cancer is usually easier to treat the earlier it is found and often surgery may be the only treatment needed in those cases where the cancer is found early. Surgery can cure cancer that is localized to one area and has not yet started to spread. Your surgeon will try to remove the tumour as well as normal tissue surrounding it. This is known as a clear margin. The closest lymph nodes are also removed in some cases.
Unfortunately sometimes surgeons will discover that the cancer has started to spread during an operation. In these cases, the surgery plan may need to be altered, may take longer or may be abandoned altogether.
Surgery is not usually able to cure cancers that have spread by themselves. In these cases, other treatments, such as chemotherapy, may also be used.
Surgery can also be used to reconstruct body parts that have to be removed due to cancer. For example, Georgie had his jaw replaced by other body tissues whilst suffering from osteosarcoma. Another example is ladies that have to have mastectomies can have their breasts reconstructed.
Surgery can also be used to prevent or reduce your cancer risk. Many celebrities in recent years, including Sharon Osbourne and Angelina Jolie, have had mastectomies after discovering they carry the BRCA gene that can increase their risk of developing breast cancer. Some people with these kind of gene mutations can opt for surgeries that may reduce their risk of developing the disease.
Surgery is also used to extend the patients life and relieve them of their symptoms if their cancer cannot be cured. For example, blockages can be removed and tumours pressing on nerves or organs can be removed.
Surgery may also be used within other treatments, for example, a central line can be inserted into the main vein in your chest to provide you with chemotherapy.
When Surgery is Used:
Some cancer types can be treated with surgery alone, others need surgery alongside other treatment and some people don’t need surgery. Your cancer type and its stage and grade will be taken into consideration when your medical team are trying to decide if surgery is an option for you. Your general health will also be considered.
The position of your tumour is also important as if it is in a delicate position, for example, need a blood vessel, then the risk of surgery causing a lot of damage may be too great.
Surgery is not used for all cancer types. For example, Leukaemia is not usually treated with surgery.
What to Expect with Surgery:
Your surgery will depend on a number of factors, these factors will dictate how complicated your surgery will be and whether you will need to be monitored by hospital staff as an inpatient.
Depending on your cancer type and how aggressive it is, you may have a few weeks between finding out you need surgery and your actual surgery date. This will give you time to prepare and to sort things such as work and childcare out. It can also be a very worrying time and it is completely normal to feel nervous before a surgery.
It can be worthwhile to use this time to write a list of any questions you have to ask your medical team. It is vital you and your loved ones are clear about what you need to do before and after the operation as well as knowing what you can all expect after the surgery. You can also use this time to try and sort out a fertility back up, if you are going to be considering having a family once your cancer ordeal is over.
It is also vital to prepare your body for surgery as best you can – try to cut down or stop smoking and drinking alcohol. Eat healthily and try to get some rest if you can.
If you are going to be staying in hospital, use this preparation time to get some things together for your stay – books, magazines, music, films, nice pajamas etc….
If you are very nervous then there are meditation and relaxation methods you could try to ease your emotions in the run up to your surgery.
There are tests everyone has to do before having surgery to check you are ok to have anesthetic and surgery. These include electrocardiogram to check your heart, chest x rays for your lungs, blood tests for your blood count and ability to fight infections and urine tests for kidney function.

You will meet the team in charge of your care before having your surgery, including the surgeon and the anesthetist. Be sure to ask them any questions you have.

You will need to sign consent forms before surgery. This is a written agreement giving the surgeon permission to do the operation. Before you sign, your surgeon should sit you down and explain why you need the operation, whether you have any other treatment options, the aim of the surgery, the risks and complications, how the surgery will be done and any possible side effects. All this information should be written down for you but please make sure you are clear about everything before you sign the form. Ask any questions – the surgeon really won’t mind!

Make sure you follow any rules in the build up to surgery with regards to food and drink, jewellery and make up, contact lenses, false teeth etc….

If you are having an anesthetic then this will all be explained to you before hand.

After Surgery
It is completely normal to feel sleepy, groggy, cold, sick, sad, tearful and anxious and confused after surgery. Some people won’t feel this way and others will, it completely depends on the patient. You will be continuously checked on by the nurses looking after you so they can keep an eye on your blood pressure, pulse and your temperature as well as the surgery wound.

You will be monitored for possible problems after surgery such as infections, blood clots and fluid around the wound, although hopefully you won’t have to endure any of that. You may need physiotherapy or some other kind of aftercare but that will all be described to you.Any pain you have should be well controlled and should subside gradually. Make sure you tell your nurse if you don’t think you have enough pain relief.

Surgery can be a very successful way of treating cancer. It is also a very scary time for anyone. I hope this blog post has helped in some way and I really do hope anyone approaching their surgery date is well looked after and comes out fighting fit.

As always, my very very best wishes to anyone suffering from cancer.


Sunday, 18 December 2016

Cancer Treatment - Tamoxifen

Hello everyone,

This post is dedicated to Anna, a very lovely and brave lady currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Her Instragram posts are among my favourites because they are always so positive, even when she isn't feeling it. I hope you have a lovely Christmas with your famiy, Anna, and I hope 2017 brings you better health and lots of happiness.

What is Tamoxifen?
Tamoxifen is a hormone therapy used to treat breast cancer both before and after the menopause. It can also be used to treat other cancer types but the research I looked into focused on breast cancer, as with this post.

How It Works:
Many types of breast cancer are hormone sensitive and are stimulated by oestrogen and progesterone and Tamoxifen is usually prescribed for women with these types of breast cancer as their cancer cells have oestrogen recepters. The receptor is part of the breast cancer cell and the oestrogen attaches itself to this and stimulates the cell, causing it to divide and grow. Tamoxifen blocks this receptor. It also lowers the risk of the cancer returning after surgery as well as lowers the risk of the cancer developing in the other breast.

Male breast cancer is rare but it can also be treated with Tamoxifen if the same receptors are found.

Treatment with Tamoxifen:
Tamoxifen can either be prescribed as a liquid or tablet and is taken daily.

Common Side Effects:
*Hot Flushes and Sweats – these affect around 45% of women taking Tamoxifen
*Period Changes – If you take Tamoxifen before entering the menopause then you may find your periods become irregular or stop altogether. They suaully restart around six to twelve months after you finish your course of Tamoxifen, unless you are nearing the menopause.
*Fatigue – around 25% of women taking Tamoxifen suffer from tiredness and fatigue.
*Pain in Joints- Around 25% of women taking Tamoxifen suffer from painful joints
*Sickness – Around 20% of women taking Tamoxifen suffer from sickness but this can usually be treated with anti sickness tablets.


Occasional Side Effects:
*Vaginal Discharge or Vaginal Dryness
*Fluid Retention or Weight Gain
*Hair Thinning

Rare Side Effects:
*Tumour Flare – If you have cancer that has spread to your bones then you may suffer from increased pain whilst taking Tamoxifen.
*Thrombosis – Your risk of blood clots can be slightly increased whilst taking Tamoxifen.
*Liver Changes – This are usually very mild and your liver will normally go back to nromla after treatment. Liver function tests may be needed.
*Eye Problems – Your eyesight may change but this should be checked out
*A Skin Rash may occur
*Womb Cancer – Your risk of developing womb cancer increases very slightly whilst taking Tamoxifen

Additional Benefits:
A recent study has indicated that breast cancer is less likely to reoccur in women that have taken Tamoxifen for ten years rather then the previously recommended five years. It is estimated that taking the drug for ten years reduces breast cancer deaths by a third for the first ten years and by half after that.

I hope you found this blog post informative. Please visit www.cancerresearchuk.org for more information. I would be very interested to hear from any women that have taken Tamoxifen in the past or are currently taking it so please do get in touch if you have/are!


Cancer Types - Osteosarcoma

Hello everyone,
This post is dedicated to Georgie, but also to my fellow CRUK Ambassadora, Florencia Pistritto and Fred Scott, both of whom are osteosarcoma survivors, long may this continue.
This is a very emotional blog post for me as osteosarcoma was the type of cancer that killed Georgie. He was fifteen when his jaw swelled up. At first he had a numb lip and weird tingling sensation. It took a while to get to the bottom of what was wrong but we eventually found out it was a tumour in the right mandible. After years of treatment and numerous surgeries, Georgie passed away just months before his eighteenth birthday.
On average thirty children per year in the UK develop osteosarcoma. This kind of cancer is more common in teenagers and is usually found in boys. It is rare to see it in a child under the age of five.
Osteosarcoma starts in the bone, usually at the end where new bone tissue forms as you grow. Any bone in the body can be affected, with Georgie it was the jaw, but it is commonly found in the arms and legs. The knee joint is a particularly common site for osteosarcoma.
The cause of osteosarcoma is unknown at the moment but there are some risk factors to consider: people with Li Fraumeni Syndrome are at more at risk of developing osteosarcoma, as are children who have hereditary retinoblastoma. If a child has had radiotherapy or chemotherapy in the past then they also have an increased risk.
Pain in the bone is the most common symptom of osteosarcoma. This may be on and off for a while at first and then become more severe and constant over time. Swelling may also occur. The bone can weaken and break, which is how many osteosarcoma cases are discovered. Most symptoms can be caused by something else so it is hard to know when to go to the doctor but if your child has persistent pain and swelling in the bone – I would recommend taking them for a check up.
To diagnose osteosarcoma, the doctor will do a series of tests including x-rays. If a bone tumour is suspected then a specialist will be needed to perform further tests such as biopsies. A physical examination of the affected area and a blood test may also be required. Bone scans, MRI’s and CT’s may also be required.
Treatment for osteosarcoma would depend on the size, position, grading and stage of the tumour. Surgery is usually a very important part of the treatment as is chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is usually used to destroy the cancer cells and shrink the main tumour before surgery is performed. It is then used again when surgery has been performed to blast away anything microscopic that may have been left behind. This is to try and reduce the chance of the cancer returning.
Radiotherapy may also be considered as it can destroy cancer cells with high energy rays but do little damage to the normal surrounding cells.
Surgery would depend on the size and position of the tumour. The whole limb may need to be amputated, especially if the cancer has spread to the surrounding nerves and blood vessel. A prosthetic limb will be fitted. Obviously this is a major thing and I don’t want to appear to not take this seriously. Your child’s doctor should discuss this in a great amount of detail with you and both you and your child should receive lots of support if amputation is the only option.
In other cases, limb sparing surgery can be used to preserve the limb. This may involve replacing the limb with a bone graft using part of another bone in the body or it may involve replacing the bone with prosthesis. Georgie has his jaw replaced with another bone part TWICE.
Even with amputation, it should be possible for your child to adjust and still be able to participate in “normal” activities and sports are still a possibility. Long term effects should be discussed with you before surgery.
Osteosarcoma can be a very aggressive type of cancer, and unfortunately, survival rates are not very good. I have a particular hatred for this cancer type and I am hopeful clinical trials and research will discover new ways of treating, curing and preventing osteosarcoma. Please do visit my uncle’s site www.anticancer.org.uk for more information as he is a fountain of knowledge on the subject, and as a parent of a child, who had cancer, he is well informed and able to explain things much better then I ever could.
My heart it with you if you or someone you love is battling osteosarcoma or if you have lost someone to it like I have.
As always, for my wonderful warrior Georgie


Cancer Types - Neuroendocrine Tumours

Hello :)

This post is dedicated to a fellow Cancer Campaigns Ambassador, Andy Norris. Andy has suffered from this cancer type for eleven years. He is a very passionate campaigner and I hope this post helps him raise awareness of a cancer type not many people are aware of. This type of cancer comes under the category of “rare cancers” and not much information is available on them. However, I will share everything I have learnt about them with you today.

The Neuroendocrine System:
The Neuroendocrine system is a combination of nerve and gland cells and it makes hormones before releasing them into the blood stream. Basically neuro means nerve and endocrine means the cells of the endocrine system. It is also known as the hormone system as the neuroendocrine system is a network of glands and organs producing hormones within our bodies. Hormones are hugely important as they control how our bodies function, including growth, development, reaction to stress and a wide range of other things.

You will find neuroendocrine cells in many organs including the lungs, pancreas, liver, stomach, both bowels and the oesrophagus as well as the appendix. These cells have different functions depending on where they are with the body. For example, neuroendocrine cells found within the lungs release hormones that control the flow of air and blood in the lungs.

Neuroendocrine Tumours:
NETs are very rare tumours and they develop within the cells of the neuroendocrine system. There are different types of these tumours and these depend on what body part is affected. These tumours usually take years to develop and do not cause any obvious symptoms at first. It is not uncommon for sufferers of this cancer type to discover the cancer has already spread to another part of the body by the time they are diagnosed.

There are some types of benign (non cancerous) neuroendocrine tumours, as well as malignant (cancerous) ones. Usually the benign tumours are more slow growing then the malignant ones.

There are other names for this cancer type:
*Gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (GEP NETs) – found in the gut or pancreas
*Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (pNETs) – found in the pancreas
*Gastrointestinal neuroendocrine tumours (GI NETs) – found in the bowel, stomach or oesophagus
*Functioning neuroendocrine tumours (F-NETs)
*Non functioning neuroendocrine tumours (NF-NETs)
*Carcinoid tumour

Treatment for this cancer type, as with most cancer types, will be dependent on the type of tumour, the stage and grading and whether it has spread to another body part. Treatment can include surgery, chemotherapy or drug therapy.Some of these tumours can also develop outside the pancreas. For example, gastrinomas have been reported in the medical literature to develop in the ovaries, kidneys, stomach and liver, and not just in the pancreas and small bowel area. NETs that develop in the lung are usually carcinoid tumours.

Causes of neuroendocrine tumours:
Not much is known about the causes of this cancer type at present. However, sufferers of rare family syndromes or gene mutations have a higher risk. These include Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN 1) and Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome (VHL). Research also shows that if one of your parents has suffered from this cancer time then your risk of developing it is slightly increased. However, this cancer is very rare so your risk is still very slight even if you have a higher risk.

I hope this blog is informative, and helps Andy raise awareness. Please contact CRUK if you wish to have further information

Preventing Cancer - Screening Tests - Colonoscopy

Hello everyone,

1 week until Christmas Day, I hope everyone is feeling festive.

Bowel cancer runs in the paternal side of my family. My dad has regular colonoscopies to check that he is ok and I am fast approaching the age where I will start having them too.

I have decided to try and break down some of the stigma attached to colonoscopies by researching them. A colonoscopy isn't appropriate for everyone but I hope this blog post persuades people to have them should they need to as it is the most effective way of diagnosing bowel cancer, as well as the presence of any bowel polyps, and as I like to drum into your heads, EARLY DIAGNOSIS IS KEY!

A colonoscopy is usually performed in the outpatients department of a hospital and the procedure itself usually lasts around an hour. The bowel needs to be completely empty for the colonoscopy so the patient will need to follow a very careful diet for a few days before the test. Laxatives may also be needed and may be prescribed. The department carrying out the procedure will give you careful instructions regarding your diet and laxatives.
It may be possible for you to have a sedative to relax you a little before the procedure. You will be told to lie on your side whilst the nurse or doctor passes a thin flexible tube called a colonoscope into your back passage. There are flexible fibres in the tube which pass around the bowel easily. There is a light and camera on the end of the tube and these show any abnormal areas of the bowel.

It may be that photographs and biopsies of the cells in the large bowel are taken during the colonoscopy. Usually any polyps can be removed using a wire loop that is passed through the colonoscope. This can be done painlessly normally.

Sometimes the whole bowel can’t be seen during the colonoscopy. This may be due to the bowel not being completely empty or because the colonoscopy can’t get round a bend in the bowel or reach the end of t. You may be asked to have a repeat or a CT colonoscopy in this situation.


Most patients are ready to go home within a few hours of the test but someone will need to come and collect you, especially if you have had a sedative. Someone should be around to keep an eye on you for around twelve hours after the procedure.

Potential Complications:
Usually a colonscopy is a fairly straightforward procedure and patients do not have any side effects. However, very rare side effects do include:
*Fluid Loss – Taking laxatives may cause you to lose lots of fluids as you are visiting the toilet frequently. It is important to let the people carrying out your colonoscopy know if you have any heart problems before taking laxatives as this can worsen your condition.
*Breathing or Heart Problems – You may have a reaction to the laxatives which may cause you to have temporary problems breathing or temporary problems with your heart.
*Heavy Bleeding – Around 1/150 people having a colonoscopy suffer from heavy bleeding after the procedure. If biopsies are taken or polyps are removed then there is a chance of bleeding. If you do notice heavy bleeding then you should seek medical advice immediately.
*Perforated Bowel – The colonoscopy can VERY RARELY make a hole in the bowel wall. This happens about 1/1000 but an operation may need needed to mend the hole.
*Death – Around 1/10,000 people having a colonscopy die as a result. A very very small percentage of those having the procedure.

The specialist performing your colonoscopy will let you know if they take any biopsies or remove any polyps during your procedure. The results of these can take up to three weeks, which can be a very anxious time for you.
Possible results include:
*A Normal Result– this means no polyps or cancerous cells were found in your bowel. About 50% of colonoscopies have a normal result and it is rare that a colonoscopy will miss cancer. If your result is normal then you will probably be offered screening every two years.
*Benign Polyps– If one or more polyps are found during the procedure then they are usually all removed at the same time in a procedure known as a polypectomy. This can help prevent bowel cancer developing. Around 40% of people having colonoscopies following an abnormal FOB test have polyps  The removed polyps are studied in a lab and the next steps are determined by the results. Polyps can sometimes reoccur after being removed.
*Cancer – Around 10% of people having colonoscopies after an abnormal FOB test are diagnosed with bowel cancer. That is 1/10. If the cancer is found at an early stage then there is a very good chance of survival as around 90% of early stage bowel cancer cases are successfully treated.
*Other Benign Causes – Colonoscopies can also indicate other conditions such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis and you are usually referred to a gastroenterologist.

I hope this post has been informative for you and I hope it persuades at least one person to go and get a colonoscopy. Surely a few hours of discomfort is fair better then a potential battle with cancer?