Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Curing Cancer - The Progress Being Made

Hello everyone,

This post is dedicated to Vicky, as she has expressed concerns about the lack of cancer cures and wishes to learn more. I hope this positive post focusing on the incredible progress being made in the fight against cancer helps Vicky and anyone else disillusioned with charities and unsure of progress being made. 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 next week.

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.


Childhood Cancer Types – Leukaemia

Hello everyone,

Today I am going to focus on the key facts about Leukaemia – one of the most common types of childhood cancer.

What is Leukaemia?
Leukaemia is cancer of the white blood cells and bone marrow. There are four main types:
*Acute myeloid (AML)
*Acute lymphoblastic (ALL)
*Chronic myeloid (CML)
*Chronic lymphocytic (CLL)

AML and ALL account for around a third of all UK cases of leukaemia. One in every six cases of leukaemia in the UK are either CML and CLL. A third of all childhood cancer cases in the UK are leukaemia. Overal Leukaemia is the tenth most common cancer type in the UK, with 2% of cancers being this type. Around twenty three people are diagnosed with leukaemia every day. Although leukaemia is the most common cancer type in children, around 9/10 cases are found in adults.

Leukaemia Survival and Mortality Rates:
Survival rates for leukaemia are fairly good with around 40% of people surviving beyond five years after their diagnosis. Survival rates have tripled in the last four decades and people diagnosed with this cancer type are four times as likely to survive longer then ten years after diagnosis then they were in the 1970’s. More then eight out of ten children diagnosed with leukaemia go on to survive longer then five years after diagnosis whereas in the 1970’s it was less then one in ten children.

Leukaemia is the ninth most common cause of death from cancer in the UK. Around twelve people in the UK with leukaemia die everyday with around four out of five of those deaths are people over the age of sixty.  

Causes of Leukaemia
*Around 9% of leukaemia cases are linked to exposure to radiation
*Smoking is the cause of around 6% of leukaemia cases in the UK and smoking increases your risk of myeloid leukaemia
*Working in the rubber protection industry and being exposed to the chemicals benzene and formaldehyde increase your risk of developing leukarmia
*Some types of radiotherapy and chemotherapy to treat cancer can then increase your risk of developing leukaemia.
*Children with Down ’s syndrome have a greater risk of developing leukaemia.

These are just a few of the key facts about this type of cancer. I will be following up with some more information about the various types of leukaemia. In the meantime, please visit www.cancerresearchuk.org for more information.


Childhood Cancer Types – Retinoblastoma

Hello everyone,

Childhood cancer is a subject extremely close to my heart as I lost my cousin to it. Today I thought I would focus on a childhood cancer type.
On average, the UK sees around forty cases of retinoblastoma in a year. Most of these cases are found in children under five years of age but it can affect children of any age.
Retinoblastoma is a tumour that occurs in the light sensitive lining of the eye called the retina. There are two types of retinoblastoma:
*A non heritable form where the cancer is unilateral (only affects one eye). The cause of this type is still unknown as yet.
*A heritable form where the cancer is bilateral (affecting both eyes). In some cases it can only affect one eye as well though. This type account for two in every five cases of retinoblastoma and is caused by a gene abnormality which has allowed the tumour to develop. This can be inherited form a parent or occur at an early stage of development whilst the child is still in the womb. This gene is known as Rb and people with this have an increased risk of developing another cancer type later in life. Genetic counselling is available for people who have retinoblastoma in their family. Not all children born to parents with this gene will be affected but should be checked for it anyway.
Some children with retinoblastoma will not have any symptoms and it is usually picked up by screening of children with family history of the condition. However, a symptom of retinoblastoma is a white pupil which does not reflect light. This can be detected in photographs using flash as the affected eye will look white in the photo. Some children with retinoblastoma have a squint whilst larger tumours can cause painful red eye.
Tests to diagnose retinoblastoma can be done under anesthetic and an ophthalmologist will examine the eye. Unlike most cancers, retinoblastoma can be diagnosed on sight, by their appearance. A biopsy is normally unnecessary. Examinations under anesthetic will be used to monitor treatment progress. Ultrasound scans, MRI, lumbar puncture and blood tests may be used to help diagnose the condition and stage the tumour.
There are two stages commonly used for retinoblastoma:
*intraocular retinoblastoma – cancer is in one or both eyes but has not begun to spread to other parts of the eye or surrounding tissue.
*extraocular retinoblastoma – the cancer has spread beyond the eye to surrounding tissue or to other parts of the body.
Treatment for retinoblastoma will depend on the size, position and stage of the cancer. Treatment is used to primarily remove the cancer but to also try and preserve sight in the affected eye, although some children sadly do lose some of their sight.
Smaller tumours can usually be treated with cryotherapy, laser therapy, plaque or thermotherapy.
Larger tumours are usually treated with chemotherapy, radiotherapy and/or surgery. If the tumour is really large and vision has been lost then an operation called enucleation may be used to remove the eye and replace it with a prosthesis.
My heart goes out to anyone watching their child suffer from retinoblastoma, what brave children they are.

Preventing Cancer - Mastectomy

Hello everyone,

I thought today we would look into mastectomies and I hope you find this blog post interesting and useful.

What is a Mastectomy?
A mastectomy is the removal of a whole breast. There are five different types of mastectomy:

Simple or Total Mastectomy - This concentrates on the breast tissue itself. The surgeon removes the entire breast but does not usually remove the lymph nodes located in the armpit (although this can happen occasionally if the lymph nodes are found in the breast tissue during the surgery). No muscles are removed from underneath the breast during this type of mastectomy.


Modified Radical Mastectomy – This involves removal of both the breast tissue and lymph nodes. The entire breast is removed by the surgeon and an axillary lymph node dissection is performed to remove level I and II of the lymph nodes in your armpit. No muscles from underneath the breast are removed.


Radical Mastectomy – This is the most extensive type of mastectomy and involves removing the entire breast, level I, II and III of the armpit lymph nodes and the chest wall muscles found under the breast.


Partial Mastectomy – This involves removing the cancerous part of the breast tissue and normal margins of healthy tissue around it. This is kind of like a lumpectomy, although more tissue is removed.

Subcutaneous Mastectomy (Nipple Sparing) – This is seen as a controversial option by some specialists as  all of the breast tissue is removed but the nipple is not touched and as some tissue could be left behind and develop into cancer. It can cause distortion or numbness in the nipple.

Reasons to Have a Mastectomy:
A mastectomy is a huge surgical procedure with lifelong repercussions so it isn’t for everyone. It could be the best way forward for you if you fit any of the following criteria:
*If your tumour is over 5cm
*If your breast is small and a lumpectomy would leave very little scar tissue
*If you have already undergone multiple lumpectomies to try and remove a tumour and have been unable to obtain clear margins.
*If a lumpectomy and radiation is not an option for you
*If you believe total removal of breast tissue would give you better peace of mind then a lumpectomy

Breast Reconstruction Surgery:
It may be possible for you to have your breasts reconstructed during the same surgical procedure as the mastectomy. This is known as immediate reconstruction. An advantage of this may be sparing yourself the trauma of having an empty space where your breast used to be. However, the decision to reconstruct your breast on top of having a mastectomy may be too much emotionally and physically so you may also wait months or years to have your reconstructive surgery.

There are many different techniques available for breast reconstruction, including inserting an implant or tissue from another body part.

You Are Not Alone:
Lots of women have been through this procedure, some for preventative reasons and others because they have had breast cancer. In recent years celebrities such as Sharon Osbourne, Michelle Heaton, Giuliana Rancic and Christina Applegate have all had mastectomies. It doesn’t make you any less of a woman; in fact it makes you a warrior and enables you to beat cancer at its own game.

Sending lots of love to any women considering a mastectomy, recovering from a mastectomy or living life to the full after a mastectomy, you are braver then you know!

For more information please visit www.cancerresearchuk.org