Macmillan's cancer information

This blog will give you regular, high-quality information about cancer. We hope you find it useful. And if there's any topic you'd like us to blog about, just let us know.

Latest Entries
  • Giving up smoking

    Have you been meaning to give up smoking but just can’t seem to make that cigarette your last one? Or perhaps you’ve tried to quit but have found it too difficult and have started smoking again. Macmillan have developed a new booklet about Giving up smoking and it’s full of handy tips and advice to help you stub cigarettes out for good. You can order a copy now.

    Why give up smoking?

    Living with cancer and its treatment can be very difficult, and some people find that smoking is a way to cope with what is happening. If you want to quit it may help to think about all the benefits of stopping smoking for you and the people close to you.

    Giving up smoking will not only benefit your health and the health of those around you, but it will help if you are having treatment for cancer. Non-smokers generally have less side effects from cancer treatment and if they do have side effects they tend to be less severe.

    Giving up smoking has financial benefits too. If you smoke twenty cigarettes a day, you spend just under £3000 a year on cigarettes. Think of all the other things you could spend your money on instead!

    How we can help

    Our Giving up smoking booklet guides you through preparing to stop smoking, stopping smoking and staying stopped. We give information about the medicines available to help you quit, such as nicotine patches and gum, and tablets which can help with cravings. The booklet also gives information on The NHS Stop Smoking Service which you can access locally, and which can really make a difference to your chances of success.

    Front cover and two inside pages of our booklet Giving up smoking


    There is a lot of help available if you want to quit, and it’s important to remember that it’s never too late to stop.

    Now, are you going make that cigarette your last one?

    We're with you every step of the way

    The Macmillan team is here to help. Our cancer support specialists can answer your questions, offer support, or simply listen if you need a chat. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00.

    Comments? Feel free to add them below (you need to be logged in – if you still can't see the comment box, click on this blog's title at the top).

    Keep in touch Follow Macmillan’s cancer information team on Twitter @mac_cancerinfo

  • NICE says ‘yes’ to new skin cancer drug, Ipilimumab

    Newspapers often comment on cancer treatment. ‘NICE under fire for veto of eleven new cancer drugs’ and ‘NHS says no to new breast cancer drug’ were recent bold headlines. What do these have in common? Turning drugs down.

    Going beyond the headlines...

    It’s worth knowing that NICE –  the NHS ‘watchdog’ – has also approved more than 6 out of 10 (63%) of the cancer treatments it has assessed. Sadly, saying ‘yes’ is usually less newsworthy. But last month, NICE did just that. Many people with a form of skin cancer will now receive a drug that helps their immune system destroy cancer cells. Ipilimumab was licensed as a first-line treatment for people with advanced melanoma – when their tumour can’t be removed, or their cancer has spread.

    Visit our website to find out more about Ipilimumab. We’ll tell you how it works, when it’s used, and its possible side effects.

    Was this big news?

    Ipilimumab didn’t reach any front pages. But NICE were criticised for their original decision: only offering the drug to people who had already received chemotherapy, or were taking part in clinical trials. So who exactly are NICE? And why did they change their mind about Ipilimumab? Knowing how NICE make decisions about drugs – approved and rejected – helps us better understand cancer treatment in parts of the UK.

    NICE, who are you?

    NICE stands for National Institute of Health and Care Excellence. We often hear about the health 'postcode lottery'. NICE were developed to get rid of it. They independently decide which drugs and treatments are available on the NHS in England and Wales. By providing national guidance, NICE aim to give people equal access – whatever their postcode. But this isn’t simple. Only days ago, Macmillan found that diagnosis and referral for cancer treatment still varies widely by location (and luckily, this did make big news).

    My Cancer Treatment website Visit My Cancer Treatment to search to easily search for cancer services in England by postcode.

    NICE, how do you make decisions?

    NICE look at certain evidence: how well treatments work in relation to how much they cost compared with other treatments already available on the NHS. It’s the ‘cost’ part that makes the most headlines. They also look at how a treatment affects quantity of life (how long a person might live for) and quality of life (how well a person is – and whether they can work and care for themselves).

    NICE, why did you change your mind?

    NICE received new evidence about Ipilimumab: Bristol-Myers Squibb, the manufacturer, provided more information on how well it works. And doing a further analysis of their data showed that it works as well as – or better – than other treatments for advanced melanoma currently available on the NHS. NICE felt this justified the cost.

    What does this mean for people with advanced melanoma?

    Ipilimumab will be available within 3 months. If you have advanced melanoma that has not been treated before, and your doctor thinks that ipilimumab is the right treatment for you, it should now be accessible on the NHS (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland).

    Want more information?

    The Macmillan team is here to help. Our cancer support specialists can answer your questions, offer support, or simply listen if you need a chat. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00.

    Comments? Feel free to add them below (you need to be logged in – if you still can't see the comment box, click on this blog's title at the top).

    Keep in touch Follow Macmillan’s cancer information team on Twitter @mac_cancerinfo



     

  • Four surprising ways cancer can affect you

    Written by Craig Melcher, Content Strategy Manager at Macmillan

    For the general public, the story of cancer has long been one of being cured or not cured. ‘Beating cancer’ or dying from it. That story is changing.

    Thanks to improved ways of diagnosing and treating cancers, they’re becoming more survivable each year. But as anyone who’s had cancer (or anyone with someone close who’s had it) knows, it’s not that simple. The impact of cancer can hit you in ways you didn’t bargain for, even after you’ve finished treatment and been given the all-clear.

    This is what we mean when we say ‘Living with and after cancer’ – all the various manners in which it can affect your life, often unexpectedly. 

    1.      Cancer is expensive

    Research in late 2013 showed that one in three people diagnosed experience a drop in income. One in four can’t afford to adequately heat their home. The average monthly financial burden is £570 – equal to the average monthly mortgage payment.*

    Macmillan has a complete range of helpful information on the financial side of dealing with cancer, from benefits advice to day-to-day money management to understanding debt. Our online financial guidance tool can help you with financial decisions you may face.

    Along with valuable information and tools, Macmillan also offers financial support such as Macmillan grants and a team of benefits advisers just a phone call away on the Macmillan Support Line – 0808 808 0000 (Mon-Fri, 9am-8pm). 

    2.      Cancer affects your sex life

    In a 2013 survey of women who’d survived breast cancer, one in two under the age of 55 said their sex life has suffered because of cancer.** Pain from treatment, loss of body confidence from surgery and scarring, and a drop in desire can leave an impact on sexuality during and after treatments for many cancers. Men aren’t immune either, with common issues such as erectile dysfunction and loss of sexual interest. 

    Macmillan has a range of information on coping with sexual difficulties.

    3.      It's an emotional rollercoaster

    Shock, anxiety, sadness, relief, uncertainty and for some people, depression – these often, predictably, come into play for people affected by cancer after a diagnosis and during treatment. What's more surprising is that sometimes these emotions appear even after surviving cancer – sometimes months or years later. And the physical effects of emotions can run from fatigue and loss of appetite, to physical pain and sleep problems.

    Macmillan has developed helpful information on all the various emotional issues you might face.

    And this online community can be profoundly helpful in dealing with emotions. Chances are that for any mix of emotions you’re feeling, someone else has been there and has good words to share.

    4.      Cancer can affect your work life

    If you’re an employee or self-employed, living with cancer or caring for someone who is, cancer’s demands can cause work issues. For example, nearly one in four who return to work after cancer say they experience discrimination from employers or even colleagues.***

    Many people don’t realise they have rights protected by legislation. Macmillan has produced a range of clear guides to your rights at work, including while caring for someone.  

    Information when you need it, or even earlier

    For all of these often sneaky effects of cancer, Macmillan has thorough, clear information on its website or as booklets you can order from be.Macmillan.

    Ideas for blog posts? Let us know.
    Comments?
     Feel free to add them below (you need to be logged in). If you can't see the comment box, click on this blog's title at the top

    Sources

    Paying the Price report by Demos, Nov 2013. 
    http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Aboutus/News/Latest_News/Costofcancersameasamortgage,saysDemos.aspx
    ** Macmillan Cancer Support/YouGov poll of women under age 55 living with breast cancer,
    Oct 2013. 
    http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Aboutus/News/Latest_News/Oneintwoyoungerbreastcancersurvivorssexlivesatrisk.aspx
     *** Macmillan Cancer Support/YouGov online survey, 2012.
    http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Documents/Cancerinfo/Livingwithandaftercancer/WorkandcancerPDFs/Yourrightsatwork_2013_2.pdf

  • Why do we use photos in our cancer information?

    In all our cancer information, whether it’s in our booklets on our website, we use photos of real people affected by cancer. The photos bring our information to life, and it means that when you read our information, you're seeing other people who've gone through their own cancer experience.

    If you're interested in being in our photos, contact Tess Rallison on trallison@macmillan.org.uk or 020 7840 4783.

    In the Cancer Information Development team, we organise two kinds of photoshoots. One is the clinical photoshoot. These are done in hospitals across the UK. We do these so we can show people having real treatments, real tests and scans, and real appointments with medical professionals. These photos help people see what it will be like when they go through it themselves.

    Everyone in our shoots chooses whether they want to take part, and they can say how they would like their photos to be used. For example, below is Agnieszka, who volunteered to be photographed having chemotherapy in Glasgow. She wanted to take part so that other people who need chemo can see what it’s like before their treatment starts. We use this photograph in our information about chemotherapy:

    Photograph showing a lady having chemotherapy

    We also arrange living with cancer photoshoots. We do these at a volunteer’s house, and we invite people affected by cancer to pop in with their family and friends for around an hour each. Then we just take photos of them doing normal, everyday things like having a cup of tea and a chat, reading a book or magazine, or going for a walk:

    Photograph showing a Macmillan photoshoot in action. There is a cameraman and people having their picture taken

    Some of the photos might show the side effects of cancer or its treatment, such as body changes like hair loss. But most of them just show people’s real lives. Everyone who comes to a shoot chooses what they want to do. Some people decide they don't want to smile, because they want to show the emotional impact cancer has had on their life. Other people choose to take their wig off, and some want to be photographed having fun with the family members or friends who have supported them.

    Photograph showing a lady with a bandage on her arm, sitting on the sofa talking Photograph showing a lady with hair loss, standing outside Photograph showing a grandmother, mother and daughter

    The photoshoot was a really enjoyable occasion for myself and friends. Lots of fun and lots of nice people. All this, and for a truly good cause.

    Our next photoshoot will be in London sometime in September 2014. We don't have a specific date yet, because we want to arrange it to fit in with the people who want to attend. We’re looking for more volunteers, so if you live in London and could spare an hour to take part, please get in touch! We can pay reasonable travel and parking costs for you and anyone you want to bring with you. We will also email you some of your photos afterwards. All our photos are taken by a professional photographer, so they're great snaps! For more information, contact Tess Rallison on trallison@macmillan.org.uk or 020 7840 4783.

  • Managing fatigue and other symptoms of cancer

    Cancer and its treatment can cause many symptoms, from tiredness and sleep problems to eating difficulties, bladder problems and skin changes. But there are also many treatments available and ways of managing these symptoms.

    One of the most common problems for people with cancer is fatigue. This means feeling excessively tired or exhausted all or most of the time. It can be one of the most difficult and debilitating symptoms that people experience. But there are treatments available and there are things you can do for yourself to help with fatigue. 

    Order our free booklet Controlling the symptoms of cancer now. It discusses the different symptoms of cancer as well as treatments and techniques that can be used to control them. The booklet looks in detail at fatigue, eating and breathing difficulties, problems affecting the bladder, bowels and skin, fluid build-up and emotional effects. It also includes a symptom diary where you can keep track of how you're feeling. This can help you and your medical team to find your triggers and see which treatments are/aren’t working.

    Image showing the front cover and an inside page of Controlling the symptoms of cancer

    Causes of fatigue

    The cause of fatigue varies from person to person. Tell your doctors and nurses about your fatigue. This will help them give you the best care.

    Fatigue may be due to the cancer itself, or it may be a result of other symptoms, including breathlessness, pain or anaemia (a low red blood cell count). It can be a side effect of cancer treatment or it can happen if your medication changes. Fatigue usually improves after cancer treatment has ended, but sometimes it remains a problem.

    10 tips for controlling fatigue

    ‘I did learn to plan to do things in small bursts of activity and just had to slow down in order to manage my breathing and fatigue.’

    Some causes of fatigue can be treated; for example fatigue caused by anaemia can be helped by having a blood transfusion. But there are many things you can try yourself to help with fatigue:­

    Number one  Plan ahead – plan your most important activities for times when you know you’ll have more energy.

    Number two  If you can make things easier, do – for example, do your shopping online rather than by going out and save your energy for something you enjoy.

    Number three  You could think about rearranging your home to make things easier, such as having your bedroom as close to the toilet as possible. 

    Number four  Sit down for everyday tasks such as washing, dressing and preparing food. 

    Number five  Use a trolley to carry heavy items like laundry or shopping. 

    Number six  Mobile or cordless phones mean you don’t have to rush to answer the telephone. 

    Number seven  Cook simpler meals to reduce the amount of time you spend in the kitchen.

    Number eight  Listen to audiobooks if you’re too tired to read.

    Number nine  Get help with any paperwork, such as filling in forms

    Number ten  Go for a walk – research has found that doing some exercise can help relieve the symptoms of fatigue. Going for a short walk can be a good start. Your doctor, nurse or physiotherapist can advise you about how much and which type of exercise would be helpful for you. 

    More helpful tips on controlling fatigue and other common symptoms of cancer can be found in our free booklet, Controlling the symptoms of cancer.

    We’re with you every step of the way

    The Macmillan team is always here to help – if you’d like to talk to someone, please get in touch.  We have a team of experts who can answer any questions you have, offer support, or simply listen if you need a chat. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00.

    Is this blog useful? What would you like to see on this blog? What would be helpful? We’d love to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to leave a comment below (you need to be logged in – if you still can't see the comment box, click on this blog's title at the top).

    Keep in touch Follow Macmillan’s cancer information team on Twitter @mac_cancerinfo

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