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Health S u p p l e m e n t P resented b y N ationa l C ancer A ction T eam

In this edition:

SCREENING LUNG CANCER & SMOKING BREAST Cancer BOWEL AND SKIN CANCER Myths MEN AND CANCER HELP AND CONTRIBUTORS

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ISSUE 2

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This health supplement is aimed at providing information to the Irish community in England on the issues associated with cancer. It has been developed by the National Cancer Action Team in partnership with the Federation of Irish Societies to support the ‘Cancer does not discriminate’ campaign.

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As an Irish health professional and chair of the Federation of Irish Societies, I want to ensure that Irish people in Britain are well informed about cancer; motivated to take preventative action; brave enough to get diagnosed early and receive high quality treatment. We are working closely with the National Cancer Action Team to raise awareness of cancer among the Irish in England. So let’s talk about cancer within our community. As a nation we have a collective fear when it comes to mentioning the ‘Big C’. We hear and talk about tumours, growths and masses, but never the word “cancer” itself. We are afraid that even saying the dreaded word will confirm our worst fears.

We would like to hear from you. If you have a story or would like to tell us what you thought of this issue, please email us at patient.experience@london.nhs.uk Paula Lloyd Knight, Associate Director Patient Experience National Cancer Action Team

So let me help you manage these worries, embarrassments and fears. We need to talk about cancer, because burying our heads in the sand won’t make it go away. In fact, it could make it worse. Doctors are there to talk about the things that are worrying us. They do understand that we are embarrassed to talk about these things but they are comfortable discussing our issues, and they’ve heard it all before!

This fear means we would rather put up with worry, anxiety and sometimes painful and uncomfortable symptoms than speak to our doctor. We can be embarrassed to talk about our bodies and private matters such as bowel habits, urinary problems and periods. This embarrassment not only delays us going to the doctor but can stop us attending cancer screening which can detect cancer even before it develops. In some cases our guilt about smoking, excessive alcohol use, poor diet or being overweight prevents us from seeking help.

Please remember also that a cancer diagnosis is not a death sentence. There have been many advances in treatment resulting in better survival rates. There is evidence if cancer is detected before it has had a chance to develop or spread, the treatment is much simpler and more straightforward. There is good research which shows that a mammogram (breast screening), cervical screening (also known as a smear test) and bowel cancer screening saves lives. If you are reading this and thinking to yourself, well sure it might be too late now, then please think again. It’s never too late to get help and advice from professionals.

And underlying all of the reasons we find not to go to the doctor, is the very real fear of what the doctor might tell us.

Dr Mary Tilki, Chair Federation of Irish Societies


LUNG CANCER & SMOKING

SCREENING

SCREENING: THE KEY FACTS In England there are three national cancer screening programmes for cervical, breast & bowel cancers Breast Screening looks for cancer

in the breast when it is too small to see or feel. The earlier breast cancer is found, the easier it is to treat. Screening is carried out by taking x-rays of the breasts (called mammograms). Screening invitations are sent every 3 years to women aged 50-70. This age range is currently being extended, to women aged 47-73. Women over the invitation age range can request screening every three years by contacting their local screening unit. It is estimated that breast screening saves around 1,400 lives each year.

Cervical Screening looks for abnormal cell changes on the cervix (the neck of the womb) which can develop into cancer. Finding them and treating them can stop cancer from developing. During screening, an instrument called a speculum is gently inserted into the vagina to hold it open. A tiny soft brush is used to collect cells from the cervix, which are sent to a laboratory to be examined. Screening invitations are sent every 3 years for women aged 25-49 and every 5 years for women aged 50-64. Women aged over 64 who have never been screened can request screening. Women over 64 whose last three tests were not all normal should continue being screened until 3 normal results are obtained. Screening is usually carried out by the practice nurse at your GP surgery.

Bowel Cancer Screening looks for blood in faeces, which can be a sign of bowel cancer. You complete a kit at home, using tiny faeces samples, which is then sent to a laboratory to be tested. Anyone with an abnormal result is asked to discuss having a colonoscopy, a procedure to examine the inside of the bowel.

Kits are sent every 2 years to men and women aged 60-69. This is being extended to people aged up to 74. Anyone over the invitation age can request a free screening kit by ringing

0800 707 60 60. Regular screening reduces the risk of dying from bowel cancer. If caught early, 9 out of 10 people survive bowel cancer. Information provided by NHS Cancer Screening Programmes

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I talk for a living, but like everybody else, I find it difficult to talk about cancer. What about yourself? Is there something you’re embarrassed to talk even to your doctor about? Well, there’s no need to be, they’ve heard and seen it all before. So, come on! Speak up for yourself! It’s your life, your health. Don’t just worry and do nothing about it. Get your symptoms checked out!”

In order to win in football you need to first be prepared, physically, mentally and emotionally. You need to size up your opponent, look for their weaknesses, work as a team and plan your attack. The same is true of cancer. You need to size up your body, check for changes, work with your team - family friends, GP and NHS.

Sir Terry Wogan, radio and television broadcaster

So we need to do a bit of homework. Read the supplement and if you have niggling doubts or changes in your body simply tell your GP. Heeding this advice could save your life. Get screened.”

Time To Act

What is Cancer?

Dr Gabriel Scally, the Director of Public Health at NHS South of England, talks to us about cancer and making positive changes.

We all know the word cancer, but how many of us know exactly what is happening in our body when cancer develops and what can cause it?

The occurrence of cancer among the Irish community living in England and Wales is higher than that of the general population. We know this from some very expert medical studies over recent decades. Significantly, this higher cancer rate is true of not only first generation immigrants, such as me, but also of second-generation Irish people. Surprisingly it isn’t socio-economic disadvantage (i.e. having less money) that explains the difference with the rest of the population in England and Wales. Instead we need to look at the eating, smoking and drinking habits of Irish people for the explanation. That is sometimes combined with a reluctance to take advantage of screening services on offer. We can also be hesitant to visit the GP as soon as symptoms, that might be early signs of cancer, occur.

These are real challenges to us as a community. Ireland was the first country in the world to protect people from second-hand tobacco smoke and this example has spread across the world. However, we do know the Irish in this country do smoke more than the rest of the population. We also know that we don’t always have a healthy relationship with alcohol and there is good evidence that our diets are not what they should be. Changing these habits for healthier ones is not always easy but the Irish are a strong community. We can make a big difference to our health, and that of our families, if we can make these changes. The NHS is a great institution and it is there for us to use. It’s important that we take up the offers of bowel, breast and cervical cancer screening. It’s also important to go to our GPs as soon as we have worries about symptoms. As a Doctor I know how reluctant we are sometimes to come forward. I also know that cancer, if caught early, can be treated expertly and effectively. We could not do a better thing for our Irish community than look after our health. Dr Gabriel Scally, Director of Public Health, NHS South of England

Have you or your family been affected by cancer? Have your say! Patients from black and minority ethnic (BME) groups have reported a poorer perception of cancer services than white British cancer patients. To help understand and improve the experience of cancer patients from BME communities, the National Cancer Action Team is calling for Irish patients and their carers, to sign up to become part of BME Cancer Voice and have their say. If you are aged 16 years or older and want to help us improve NHS cancer

services, join BME Cancer Voice now by calling 0800 634 7382 or visit our website www.BMEcancervoice.co.uk for more information.

Cancer is a disease of cells. Our bodies contain about a hundred million million human cells of over 200 different types. They join together to form tissues, which in turn form organs – like the lungs and skin. Each cell-type has its own characteristics, so it can do its job. In our bodies, cells are dividing all the time to replace cells that have died. This process is controlled by the cell’s DNA, which is like an instruction book which tells the cell what to do and when to divide. But in cancer cells, that control is lost. The DNA is damaged and the cell just keeps on dividing. The result is a growing mass of cells where they’re not wanted –sometimes forming a tumour. DNA can get damaged in many different ways. People can be born with damaged DNA and things in our environment like chemicals in tobacco, some infections and too much UV light can damage DNA. Before a cancer will develop several changes to a cell’s DNA need to build up over time. This is why cancer is more common among older people. Information provided by Cancer Research UK

Cancer does not discriminate. Being aware could save your life” Paula Lloyd Knight, Associate Director, Patient Experience, National Cancer Action Team

If you are interested in just completing a oneoff survey please visit our website for details.

Follow @BMECancerVoice on Twitter

Smoking is the single biggest cause of cancer in the world, and causes more than eight in ten cases of lung cancer. Lung cancer has one of the lowest survival rates of all cancers, and is the most common cause of cancer death in the UK. The good news is that most of these deaths are preventable, by giving up smoking.” Cancer Research UK

Stopping your Tobacco use

John (Johnny) Giles, former football player and manager for Republic of Ireland

Whether you have smoked for one year or for 30 years, it’s never too late to stop and the risks will reduce and benefits accrue immediately. Many Irish people who would not consider themselves religious still stop smoking during Lent. Lent is an ideal opportunity to give up and you may find a mutual support group of family members or friends who could help each other quit and stay off once Lent is over. Birthdays, anniversaries, new babies, starting work, retiring or other rites of passage are also perfect times to stop smoking.

Photo courtesy of the John Giles Foundation

Lung Cancer Lung Cancer is the most common cancer in the world. In the UK, around 40,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. It is the most common cause of cancer death in the UK, for both men and women. Everyone is at risk of developing lung cancer. It is known that smokers and ex-smokers have an increased risk of getting lung cancer. However, please remember that people who have never smoked are also at risk of getting this disease. There are other things that increase the risk of developing lung cancer. For example, contact with chemicals found in the workplace or environment, such as asbestos, radon and diesel exhaust fumes. Passive smoking (breathing in other people’s cigarette smoke) increases the risk of lung cancer, but it is still much less than if you smoke yourself.

Looking after your Lungs A healthy lifestyle is the most important way for you to prevent lung cancer. • Keep physically fit. • Have a healthy diet – eat more fruit and vegetables and less salt, sugar and drink less alcohol. • It is never too late to stop smoking – no matter what age you are, it can make a real difference to your health.

DID YOU KNOW?

Stop smoking medicines and Nicotine Replacement Therapy products are available on prescription and they can double your chance of successfully quitting. They DO NOT contain toxic cancer causing chemicals that are in cigarettes. Call 0800 022 4 332 for more information.

Unexplained tiredness or lack of energy

If you have any of the following symptoms for more than three weeks, make an appointment with your GP today.

A cough that doesn’t go away Hoarse voice

A long standing cough gets worse

It is most likely that this will be nothing serious and will put your mind at rest. If it is lung cancer, early diagnosis and treatment could save your life.

Chest and / or shoulder pains

It’s never too late! Stopping at any age will increase your life expectancy, provided that you stop before you develop cancer or another serious disease. Within the first 24 hours your blood pressure and lungs will be showing improvement. After three months your circulation and breathing should have improved noticeably. After five years, your risk of having a heart attack falls to about half that of a smoker. After ten years, your risk of lung cancer falls to about half that of a smoker.

I’ve tried to give up many times, but always fail - what else can I do? If you’ve tried before and it didn’t work out don’t worry. You haven’t failed, you have just given yourself more practice for the next time you quit. Research has shown that the more attempts you have made in the past, the more likely you are to succeed in the future. This is because every time you are getting more experienced in how to quit.

Ways to quit There are lots of ways to quit and the NHS provides free support to help. Quitting can be hard, but with the help of your free, local NHS Stop Smoking Service you are up to four times more likely to quit successfully than by going it alone.

Coughing up blood

There are lots of reasons why you might have some of the symptoms shown in the diagram. It may be nothing serious but it’s worth getting yourself checked out.

IS IT TOO LATE TO STOP?

Next time you quit spend a little longer planning. The preparation you do up front can make all the difference.

NHS Smokefree

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR

Smoking causes cancer

What support is available to me? You can speak to an adviser over the phone, go to face-to-face meetings, get one-toone local advice or join the Smokefree Together programme for information and advice via post, text and email.

Unexplained breathlessness

You can try nicotine replacement products or medication to help you cope with withdrawal symptoms.

Chest infections

Call the NHS Smoking Helpline on 0800 022 4 332. They can help you decide on the best way to quit and provide information about your nearest services. Lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm and Saturday and Sunday 11am to 5pm.

Unexplained weight loss

Information on how to get this support, along with advice on smoking and other forms of tobacco, can be found at www.nhs.uk/smokefree. There are lots of useful tools on this website that can help you get started on your journey towards becoming smokefree. Information provided by the NHS Smokefree

Information provided by Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation

NHS National Cancer Action Team accepts no liability for the views and opinions of organisations or individuals in this supplement.

NHS National Cancer Action Team accepts no liability for the views and opinions of organisations or individuals in this supplement.

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BOWEL AND SKIN CANCER

BREAST CANCER If you’re sitting at home thinking ‘I should really go for a mammogram’ or if you’ve noticed an unusual change in your breast and haven’t gone to your GP yet, don’t put it off any longer. My experience has taught me that by biting the bullet, you’ll know one way or the other and an early diagnosis can make all the difference to effective treatment.” Bernie Nolan, actress, singer and television personality

Personal Journeys For women of all ages checking your breasts is very important. But once you reach 50 (47 in some areas) you’ll be invited to breast screening and it’s also vitally important you attend those appointments. Here’s why. Mary Warrener was attending a three-yearly breast check in her local mobile breast screening unit in 2007. She attended every time she was invited. ‘I come from a family where if things are offered to you, you take them up. Especially if it’s free. So I went along to breast screening whenever I got my invitation letter.’ At the time she had no symptoms that worried her. ‘My nipples felt a bit strange but I didn’t know if that was just old age, so it didn’t worry me’.

come back to the unit. More tests followed and Mary was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had it in two places in her right breast. The recommendation from her doctor was a full mastectomy. ‘At the time I was in a state of shock, my ability to take it in, to comprehend, was impaired.’ Mary was offered the surgery very quickly but asked her doctor if she could still take the planned trip to Brittany with a Celtic language group first. The doctor agreed, as long as she attended the clinic straight away on her return. ‘On the trip I discovered three other women had also dealt with breast cancer and it was great to talk to people who’d been through it and discuss things like prosthesis (artificial breasts)’.

However, a week after her routine breast screening appointment she was asked to

Back home everyone else was equally supportive. Members of an Irish group in

Leicester, which Mary attended, rallied around her, sending cards and flowers during her long months of treatment. Mary had a full mastectomy and intensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy and has no recurrence since treatment.

Mary Charlwood’s story highlights the importance of attending your breast screening. In November 1999 Mary was invited to her first mammogram, the procedure of breast screening, having turned 50. ‘I nearly didn’t go as I was very busy with

Most changes in your breasts won’t turn out to be breast cancer, but if it is breast cancer, then the sooner this is diagnosed, the more effective the treatment may be. Around 70% of women with breast cancer found out they had it by noticing a change in their breasts and talking to someone about it, so it can make a real difference.

© Dave Perris at Lucky Dog

Many people say they find it difficult to go to their GP, but if you do notice any changes it’s important you visit your doctor and get yourself checked out as soon as possible. You can always ask to see a female GP if you’d feel more comfortable. If you are invited to screening, all screening staff are women too.

Taking Care of your Breasts Whatever your age, size or shape, it’s important to take care of your breasts. Every year around 50,000 people in the UK find out they have breast cancer. It’s the most common cancer diagnosed in UK women and can affect women of all ethnicities. But, worryingly, 43% of minority ethnic and black women say they never check their breasts. There is no right or wrong way of checking your breasts and you can make it part of

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your normal routine. It’s important to decide what you are comfortable with and what suits you best and then look at and feel your breasts regularly. You could do this in the bath or shower, when you use body lotion, or when you get dressed. What’s important is getting to know what is normal for you. You can then feel confident about noticing any unusual changes. Breast cancer can affect women of all ages, so women should check their breasts and report any unusual changes throughout their life.

If you have any questions about breast health or screening, Breast Cancer Care’s free, confidential helpline is there to help – call 0808 800 6000. Or if you’d prefer, the Breast Cancer Care website has loads of information, visit www.breastcancercare.org.uk Davinia Green, Breast Health Promotion Manager at Breast Cancer Care says: “If you feel a bit embarrassed or apprehensive about checking your breasts, it may be reassuring to know that you can make it part of your daily routine, it needn’t be anything to be scared of. If you get to know what’s normal for you, it’s much easier to notice if something isn’t right and then it’s important to talk to your doctor. Don’t be scared of talking to your GP or delay going, as earlier diagnosis may lead to simpler treatments options.”

work and trying to fit it in was difficult. I had no symptoms, no lumps that I could feel’. But Mary decided to go and is very glad she did. Within a week of the screening she was back at the unit for an ultrasound and biopsy. It was whilst waiting for the results that Mary’s symptoms appeared. ‘I then saw a dimple had appeared on my breast, which is one of the symptoms. It appeared in the two weeks I was waiting for the results.’ Mary went back for her results accompanied by a friend, ‘it was very daunting. I was in a room with five people. So I just knew it was bad news. Most of what they told me went over my head, so it was good having someone with me to take it all in. All I could think was how am I going to tell my girls?’ Mary had 3 tiny lumps in her breast, too small to feel at the time with self examination. So her breast screening appointment enabled the doctors to catch her cancer very early. Once she had been diagnosed, she told her daughters and her close friends and family. Mary also joined a support group and felt it really helped to talk to people who knew what she was going through. Mary had surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy over the course of several months. Both Marys have since had no recurrence of their cancer and both are vocal supporters of breast screening. So, if you are over 50 (47 in some areas) and you’ve received a breast screening invitation, go! The earlier you are diagnosed, the better the chances of successful treatment. And those under 50? Get self examining today and know your breasts.

Bowel Cancer

Skin Cancer

The charity Beating Bowel Cancer says that almost 40,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year but if diagnosed early, over 90% of bowel cancer cases can be treated successfully.

Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the UK and the number of people who develop it is increasing. The majority of cases are caused by too much ultraviolet radiation (UV) from the sun or sunbeds. So by enjoying the sun safely the risk of skin cancer can be reduced.

Getting beyond our own fear and learning the facts can go a long way in improving our survival and quality of life. Bowel cancer (cancer of the colon and rectum) is a treatable cancer, so don’t let fear and worry stop you from asking your health care provider about screening and testing. Bowel cancer is not only treatable but beatable. Men and women aged 60 – 69 are eligible for bowel cancer screening (currently being extended up to 74). The screening test detects blood hidden in the small samples of your poo. You complete the test at home over the course of a few days. Once complete, you simply return it by post for analysis. Around 2 in every 100 tests show abnormal results and require further investigation to find out what is causing the bleeding. If diagnosed at a later stage bowel cancer can still be treated successfully using one or a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. This however depends on people recognising and acting on symptoms by going to their GP, and by taking part in bowel cancer screening when it is offered. It could save your life. Mark Flannagan, CEO said: “We must encourage people to act when they recognise symptoms. So if you notice a change that lasts three weeks or more -

Bowel cancer symptoms Most of these symptoms will not be bowel cancer but your GP will want to see you if you have been experiencing any of these symptoms for 3 weeks or more:

6 symptoms to look out for: • Bleeding from the bottom (rectal bleeding) without any obvious reason. • Any persistent change in bowel habit, especially looser poo. • Abdominal pain. • A lump in your tummy especially on the right hand side. • Unexplained tiredness, dizziness & breathlessness (signs of anaemia). • Unexplained weight loss. whether it’s looser poo, blood in your poo or anything else that is unusual for you, go and tell your doctor as it could save your life.”

Information provided by Beating Bowel Cancer Words and Photos by Claire Elshaw

There’s an easy way to remember how to stay breast aware…

The Breast Awareness

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point code

You should know what is normal for you. Know what changes to look for. Look and feel. Tell your GP about any changes straight away. Go for breast screening when invited.

Information provided by Breast Cancer Care

NHS National Cancer Action Team accepts no liability for the views and opinions of organisations or individuals in this supplement.

Gina’s Story

My name is Gina Potter and I live in the beautiful seaside town of Bangor in Northern Ireland, where I work as a Secretary for a firm of architects. I was diagnosed with bowel cancer at the age of 42 in 2005. I’d had ongoing symptoms for a number of years. At the time I was too scared to mention it to my doctor, something I now regret. Luckily when I did have a biopsy of the tumour, the surgeon informed me that it was indeed cancer, but had been caught early. He also said he was surprised that at my age it was cancerous, and it was most likely hereditary. My Nana had developed the same cancer, luckily she survived as well! My symptoms included bleeding from the back passage, pains in my stomach after eating certain salty foods and loose mucous type stools. The tumour was removed the month after diagnosis by keyhole surgery, followed by six months of chemotherapy. I found treatment hard going, as I had numerous side effects. Worst of these was constant sickness, but with prayer, support from family and friends, reflexology, retail therapy and continuing to work I got through it. The medication and drugs that the hospital provided also helped enormously. This included a 24 hour anti-sickness syringe driver, which was inserted into my stomach for 7 days at each round of treatment. I was able to put the

Who is most at risk?

Anyone can develop skin cancer, but some people are more at risk than others. These people tend to have one or more of the following: • fair skin that burns easily • lots of moles or freckles • a history of sunburn • red or fair hair • light-coloured eyes • a personal or family history of skin cancer.

Spotting skin cancer early saves lives

Keep an eye on your skin and report any changes in the size, shape or colour of a mole or any other change to a mole or normal patch of skin to your doctor without delay. We know that people are more likely to survive cancer if it’s found at an early stage.

“Bowel cancer is treatable, especially if diagnosed early. However only 9% of patients are diagnosed at the earliest stage. It’s crucial to be symptom aware and go to your GP if you have concerns.”

syringe driver into a bum bag which enabled me to go to work and keep myself busy.

Deborah Alsina, CEO, Bowel Cancer UK

The ABCD rule

If you notice any of the following signs, then see your doctor. Asymmetry The two halves of your mole do not look the same. Border The edges of your mole are irregular, blurred or jagged. Colour The colour of your mole is uneven, with more than one shade. Diameter Your mole is wider than 6mm in diameter (the size of a pencil eraser). Other signs of skin cancer that you should see your doctor about • a new growth or sore that won’t heal • a spot, mole or sore that itches or hurts • a mole or growth that bleeds, crusts or scabs

What should I be looking out for? Get to know your skin and look out for any changes. When checking your skin the ABCD rule can help you remember some of the main warning signs, but remember not all skin cancers have these features.

What if I notice a change?

If you are concerned about skin changes then visit your doctor without delay. Any change in a mole, freckle or normal patch of skin that occurs quickly, over weeks or months, should be taken seriously.

Reducing the risk of Skin Cancer

The day I finished treatment I couldn’t stop my tears. I hugged my husband of 26 years and I could see the relief in his eyes!

Remember to:

• Spend time in the shade between 11 and 3 • Make sure you never burn • Aim to cover up with a T shirt, hat and sunglasses • Remember to take extra care with children • Use factor 15+ sunscreen with four or five stars

After 5 years of tests and scans I got the all clear in August 2010, I must say I cried tears of joy upon hearing this. My husband and I went to London for the weekend as I felt he deserved the trip, given what he had been through the last 5 years. I couldn’t have got through it without him! Since getting the all clear in 2010 I finally feel able to talk about my experiences, I really closed myself in before that and couldn’t discuss it with anyone. Now I really want to help cancer survivors and current patients in any way I can, as I really know how hard a cancer diagnosis is, but more importantly I want to let them know that there is life after cancer. Indeed life for me is now a much more positive,

Know the signs

Sunbeds

appreciative, compassionate and loving affair! In 2011 I was contacted by the CEO of Bowel Cancer UK. She said she would like me to help her raise awareness of this often overlooked disease. I am now one of their volunteers. I attended an awareness course with Bowel Cancer UK and am looking forward to starting volunteering at health awareness events on their behalf. I still have to have colonoscopies (camera tests) every two years but I am determined to keep positive and God willing I will live a long and productive life! Words by Gina Potter, photo by Stephen Potter

• Sunbeds aren’t a safe alternative to tanning outdoors. Like the sun, sunbeds give out UV rays which damage the DNA in our skin cells and can cause skin cancer. • So when the tan fades the damage can remain. • Sunbeds also cause premature skin ageing, which means that skin becomes coarse, leathery and wrinkled at a younger age.

Why do outdoor workers need sun protection?

If you work outdoors then your skin is regularly exposed to UV rays from the sun. Don’t forget to take care when outdoors and protect your skin from overexposure to UV rays by using clothing, shade and sunscreen. Information provided by Cancer Research UK

5


MEN AND CANCER

Myths

Myths and realities about cancer in the Irish community During Ethnic Minority Cancer Awareness Week last year, the Federation of Irish Societies held a number of workshops across England. As part of these workshops we asked people about their understanding of cancer. This helped us to determine common myths in the Irish community about cancer. Below we look at some of these myths and challenge them to make sure that everyone is better informed about the truth and reality of the disease.

Cancer is a death sentence Reality: There have been great advances in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer - cancer survival rates in the UK have doubled in the last 40 years. If cancer’s found at an early stage, treatment is often simpler and more likely to be successful. So spotting cancer early can make a real difference. Get to know your body and report any unusual or persistent changes to your doctor. (Cancer Research UK)

Cancer runs in families Reality: Only a very small proportion (estimated to be less than 10%) of cancers are linked to a family history of the disease. The strength of your family history depends on who in your family has had cancer and how old they were when they were diagnosed. The more relatives who have had cancer and the younger they were at diagnosis, the stronger your family history. If you are worried about a family history of cancer, you should visit your GP. If they think you might be at higher risk they may refer you to a clinical genetics centre. (Cancer Research UK)

There is a lot of conflicting information about what causes cancer Reality: The media often focus on differences or disagreements between researchers because good news does nothing for viewing/ listening statistics or newspaper sales. Research is always increasing or improving knowledge and sometimes challenging the information that exists. Although there will always be some debate, there is persistent and consistent evidence about the links between, smoking, alcohol, diet and obesity and a range of cancers.

Nothing can be done to prevent cancer Reality: Some people believe that there is nothing they can do to avoid cancer. But research has shown that more than four in ten cancers could be prevented by lifestyle changes such as not smoking, keeping a healthy body weight, cutting back on alcohol, eating a healthy balanced diet, keeping active and enjoying the sun safely. Living a healthy life isn’t a guarantee against cancer, but it stacks the odds in our favour. (Cancer Research UK)

If I talk about my cancer people will avoid me.

Doctors are always too busy to listen

Reality: Irish people refer to “tumours, growth, the Big C”, rather than using the term “cancer”. Much more is known about the causes of cancer now and although it may be linked to the lifestyle of the individual, self-blame won’t help. However cancer occurs it’s a nasty disease and we all deserve the help and support of family, friends and health care professionals.

Reality: Sadly some doctors are very busy and this may make you feel that they don’t have time to listen but everybody has a reasonable right to the doctor’s time and attention. And if you don’t feel you are getting anywhere with your doctor, ask to see another at the practice. Making a diary of symptoms, a note of any relevant health history and a list of questions can help you make the best use of the limited appointment time. Don’t be frightened to ask questions. Be polite and firm and ask to clarify anything you do not understand. It may help to take a friend or relative with you and it will help you later if you take some brief notes during the consultation.

The culture of secrecy around cancer in the Irish community and among older people in particular, limits information about signs, symptoms, early detection and treatment and this has a detrimental affect on our health.

If you don’t feel that you’ve got to the bottom of the problem it’s perfectly OK to ask for a second opinion.

Break the silence How the Federation of Irish Societies (FIS) has acted to address the worrying fact that Irish people have amongst the lowest level of success for cancer treatments in the UK.

The programme offers free skincare and

Also available is the LGFB Confidence Kit – an extensive DVD and booklet which covers skincare and make-up, wig selection and styling, hair alternatives and nailcare. To find out more visit: www.lgfb.co.uk

6

Symptoms and what to look out for

Some men with prostate cancer may have no symptoms at all, but if you have any problems with your waterworks, it might be a sign of a prostate problem. Some symptoms caused by prostate problems include: • Needing to urinate more often, especially at night • Difficulty starting to pass urine • Straining or taking a long time to finish urinating • A weak flow of urine • A feeling that your bladder has not emptied properly • Needing to rush to the toilet – you may occasionally leak urine before you get there • Dribbling urine Problems with passing urine are common in older men but this does not mean men should ignore them or have to put up with them. There are treatments available for urinary symptoms as well as prostate problems and prostate cancer.

Testing for prostate cancer

There is no screening programme for prostate cancer but there is a simple blood test, called the PSA test that can help your doctor work out if you may have a prostate problem. A raised PSA level can show that there might be a problem with your prostate. But a PSA test alone cannot diagnose prostate cancer and there are pros and cons to the test. So if you are concerned about prostate cancer you should talk to your doctor.

Call The Prostate Cancer Charity’s Helpline on 0800 074 8383 to order free leaflets about prostate problems or cancer or to speak to a specialist nurse. Alternatively visit their website: www.prostate-cancer.org.uk

make-up workshops in over 60 locations throughout the UK. At the beginning of each workshop, patients are given a gift bag filled with 17 different products donated by major companies. Demonstrating each one in turn, three volunteer beauty consultants take everyone through a specially designed 12-step skincare and make-up regime – eyebrows and lashes are delicately ‘drawn’ back, dark circles are ‘hidden’, complexions are pampered and smoothed. At the end of each session of learning, fun and laughter ladies leave feeling relaxed, full of renewed confidence in their appearance and having regained a degree of control over their lives.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, with 37,000 new cases diagnosed every year in the UK.

Where can I find out more?

Look Good...Feel Better Look Good…Feel Better is the only international charity created to help women combat the often distressing visible side effects of their cancer treatment. LGFB was formed in 1994 in the UK and is supported by over 40 leading companies and brands in the Beauty and Fragrance Industry.

Prostate cancer

All men over 50 are entitled to a free PSA test on the NHS provided they have made an informed choice following discussion with their GP about the pros and cons of having the test” Department of Health

For more information visit: www.nhs.uk/conditions/ cancer-of-the-prostate

Information provided by The Prostate Cancer Charity

FIS ran a number of road-shows across London and the South East to improve prostate, breast and bowel cancer screening uptake. Jointly funded by the Irish Government and the Ethnic Minority Cancer Awareness Week, over 200 people at lunch clubs, community centres and social groups met to hear from the cancer charities about the signs and symptoms of cancer: what to look out for, how to get tested and where to go for help and information.

Member organisations across other regions in the country took up the challenge and ran their own cancer awareness sessions in clubs and centres in the Midlands and North. Jennie McShannon, Chief Executive at FIS said “getting the community to feel more confident about talking about cancer and screening regularly is critical to reducing the number of Irish deaths from cancer. These road shows were a chance to break the silence” To find out more visit: www.irishinbritain.org

NHS National Cancer Action Team accepts no liability for the views and opinions of organisations or individuals in this supplement.

It’s my role as a journalist to tell people about what’s happening in the world. Whether it’s good or bad news, I get people talking about it. I want to do the same now about cancer. In the Irish community, particularly for Irish men, it can often be hard to talk about health worries. But we need to be able to talk about cancer, to understand it and take away the mystery. Then we’ll have a better chance of preventing it.” Fergal Keane, writer and broadcaster NHS National Cancer Action Team accepts no liability for the views and opinions of organisations or individuals in this supplement.

Declan Talks To Us GROWING up in North London as a child was a wonderful experience and I was lucky enough to do so in a thriving Irish community. Sport played an important role in my life and from the age of four I could be found playing Gaelic football in Gladstone Park every Saturday. Sport has become my job and I have those early years in Gladstone Park to thank for that. As I grew up, I became aware of how important lifestyle is, for not only feeling good but also for achieving my best performance on the rugby pitch. Like most people, my family has been affected by cancer. I lost my aunt to lung cancer and both my grandfathers. I never got the opportunity to meet my father’s father because he had passed away even before I was born. My father set me a great example as I was growing up, having given up cigarettes when I was born and drinking only in moderation. This was something I tried to copy. As a teenager I tried smoking but after having a few cigarettes and feeling like I was coughing a lung up, I knew cigarettes were not for me. I enjoy a pint with the lads but try to just keep that to a few. Eating healthily is important too. Players have a massive calorie intake but try to stay away from cakes, fried food and too much red meat. It’s important to eat healthily not just for our general health but also for peak performance. I know people go on about getting your five fruit and veg portions a day -

but I really notice the difference when I don’t! Many people have the misconception that sportsmen are immune to illness. Due to our heavy workload and training, we can get sick as training affects our immune systems. Twice I have been struck down by a urinary tract infection. It can be bit scary, from pain in your kidneys to peeing blood. All sorts of things were going through my head the first time, including whether I had cancer. I sought help immediately and was lucky enough to see some very good doctors who ran a range of tests. At the age of 26 I thought I was a little young to be getting my prostate checked but knew that I had to do whatever was necessary. I was lucky enough to get the all-clear. These experiences make me even more determined to look after my body especially now that I have kids of my own. Declan Danaher. Back-row forward with London Irish

Health and Irish Men ‘The increasing focus on men’s health in recent years is an important and welcome development. While we hear much about the ‘problems’ with men’s health, we sometimes forget to look for more creative and opportunistic ways of engaging men in health matters and in supporting men to take increased responsibility for their own health. We should also consider that promoting and improving men’s health impacts not just on men’s lives, but has positive spin-offs on the lives of women and children and on the wider community.’ Dr Noel Richardson (pictured), Board member of Men’s Health Forum, Ireland. A study of men’s health in Ireland shows that men have less contact with health care professionals than women, despite the fact that in most cases the outcomes for illness is poorer. There is no reason to think that this is any different for Irish men in the UK. The question is why? We’ve all heard of ‘man-flu’. Women complaining that blokes take to their beds for days with a cold whilst they soldier on. So why is it then that men are more reluctant to go to the doctor when they have serious health concerns? The problem may be our views of what’s macho. Men are supposed to fix the plumbing, not complain to the doctor about theirs.

cases that’s fine. But with the doctor you have to be able to wear your heart on your sleeve and that can be difficult. Add into this mix a fear that the doctor might not take us seriously and you’ve a recipe for denial. All this means that often Irish men are slower to acknowledge the signs of illness, and take longer to consult their doctor. Many men only go because their Mum, girlfriend, wife practically marches them through the surgery door. However, this can cause real problems, as the delay in diagnosis of illness can make treatment more complicated and more difficult to treat successfully.

Then there’s fear. It’s a man’s job to catch the spiders and check for monsters under the bed. It’s difficult to admit you don’t want to see a doctor, because you’re afraid there might be a real problem, and that you won’t be able to fix it.

So maybe today is the day you need to redefine what is ‘macho’ and manly. It takes real guts to admit you have a problem. It takes bravery to confront it head on and deal with it. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength of character. Catching cancer early and beating it, now that’s impressive.

Also at the doctors we have to ‘get real’. Many men would rather talk about football results than their emotions. And in most

To read the report in full checkout Men’s Health In Ireland Report (2004) www.mhfi.org/fullreport.pdf

7


HELP AND CONTRIBUTORS

Where to find out more

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The National Cancer Action Team and the Federation of Irish Societies have worked in partnership to provide this free supplement

Together we can improve cancer services

For more information about the Federation of Irish Societies visit their website www.irishinbritain.org email them on info@irishinbritain.org or call them on 020 7833 1226

www.bmecancervoice.co.uk

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Irish Health Supplement  

This health supplement is aimed at providing information on the Irish community in England on the issues associated with cancer. It has been...

Irish Health Supplement  

This health supplement is aimed at providing information on the Irish community in England on the issues associated with cancer. It has been...

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