Abi - Macmillan

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
  • Managing nausea and other side effects of cancer treatment

    Side effects are changes you might get as a result of cancer treatment.They can be mild and temporary. But sometimes they can have a bigger impact on your quality of life. The thought of side effects can be frightening at any stage of your cancer treatment, but there are many ways to help manage them.

    Cancer treatments can cause a range of side effects, from excessive tiredness or sleeping difficulties to changes to memory or concentration. One of the most common side effects with many cancer treatments is nausea. This means feeling sick or having an unsettled stomach all or most of the time. It can feel very debilitating and difficult to combat. But there are treatments available and there are things you can do for yourself to help with nausea.

    If you’re experiencing side effects from your treatment, order our free booklet Side effects of cancer treatment. It gives an overview of some of the common side effects and suggests ways to help you manage them. The booklet looks in detail at many side effects including reduced numbers of blood cells, nausea, hair loss, tiredness, changes to sex life, changes to fertility, and many more.

    10 tips for controlling nausea

    Nausea can be well controlled. Your doctors will usually prescribe anti-sickness drugs, also called anti-emetic drugs, if sickness is a possible side effect of your treatment. Tell your doctor or nurse if it doesn’t improve. There are different types of anti-sickness medicines that work in different ways. Some may work better for you than others, and often you may be given more than one type of drug.

    Some anti-sickness drugs can make you constipated. Let your doctor or nurse know if this happens. Our booklet also has a section on constipation and can advise you on what might help.

    If you’re struggling with nausea, here are some tips on what you can do:

    Number 1  Sometimes, the smell of cooking can be overpowering. If possible, let someone else cook or prepare food for you.

    Number 2 Eat cold food or food at room temperature if the smell of cooking bothers you.

    Number 3  Where possible, avoid fried, fatty foods or foods with a strong smell.

    Number 4 Try eating dry food, such as crackers, before you get up in the morning.

    Number 5 Eat several small snacks and meals each day, and chew food well.

    Number 6  Ginger can help reduce feelings of sickness – you could try a warm mug of ginger tea, ginger biscuits or crystallised ginger.

    Number 7 Peppermint is also good at easing sickness and is available as a tea or sweets.

    Number 8 Some complimentary therapies such as acupuncture may help but ask your doctor first. Some people find wearing acupressure wristbands helpful. You can buy these from a chemist.

    Number 9  Sipping a fizzy drink can help – you can try ginger beer or ginger ale, mineral water, lemonade or soda water. Sip slowly through a straw.

    Number 10 Fresh air and gentle exercise such as walking can help relieve sickness.

    More helpful tips on managing nausea and other common side effects of cancer treatment can be found in our free booklet, Side effects of cancer treatment.

    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

  • Anal cancer – why the taboo?

    Following the launch of our new booklet about anal cancer, Richard takes a look at why you may not even have heard of it.

    These days, the word ‘cancer’ is far less scary than it used to be. Of course, no one wants to get diagnosed with cancer, but for many people the word itself carries less of a taboo. Cancer news stories, TV coverage and social media campaigns about inspiring people are common. Yet, although we’re happier to talk more about the ‘big C’, there are still some types of cancer that rarely get a mention – or only behind closed doors.

    Anal cancer is one of these cancers – one of the last remaining cancer taboos.

    When was the last time you read a news article about it? Or saw a show on the TV that covered someone with anal cancer? Farrah Fawcett perhaps, who very sadly died of anal cancer back in 2009?

    To be fair, it is a rare type of cancer. Only about 1,200 people are diagnosed with anal cancer each year in the UK, which is small when compared with the 50,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer or the 37,000 men diagnosed with prostate cancer. Yet the incidence is on the increase. The number of people diagnosed with anal cancer has increased dramatically over the last 40 years.

    So why is anal cancer still such a taboo?

    Firstly, we’re often embarrassed to discuss this area of our body and all its ‘functions’ – with time this may change, after all it wasn’t so long ago we felt the same talking about testicles and breasts. And secondly, anal cancer is incorrectly believed to only be caused by sexual activity. Double whammy!

    It’s true that the human papilloma virus (HPV) is a major cause of anal cancer, and that HPV is mainly transmitted sexually. But HPV is very common – nearly everyone that’s sexually active will have HPV at some time, and only very few of them will get anal cancer.

    It’s also true that anal intercourse will increase your risk of anal HPV and subsequently anal cancer. But anal cancer doesn’t just affect men who have sex with men, in fact it’s more common in women than men, and research also shows us that anal HPV is also fairly common in heterosexual men.

    The bottom line (sorry) is that many of the people who are diagnosed with anal cancer each year won’t have any of these risk factors.

    Let’s talk about anal cancer

    At Macmillan we don’t believe in blaming people for being diagnosed with cancer. We also think all cancers should be talked about. Talking about cancer helps to raise awareness, which can help with early diagnosis, access to the best treatments and an increase in research. It can also help people not to feel alone.

    We’ve recently produced a new booklet called Understanding anal cancer, which explains the possible causes, how it’s diagnosed and treated, and ways of coping with side effects and the emotional impact. Order your free copy now if you or anyone you know is affected.

    We also have information about HPV and about talking about cancer.

    If you find it difficult to talk about your diagnosis of anal cancer, or you just can’t bring yourself to tell people, our information specialists are happy to help. You can talk to them anonymously and get the information and support you need. No one should face cancer alone.

    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

  • Managing weight loss and other eating problems during cancer treatment

    Many people experience eating problems during and after treatment for cancer. There are lots of reasons for this. It may be because of the cancer itself, or due to side effects of different treatments.

    If you have any problems with your diet, you can ask your cancer doctor to refer you to a dietitian. Qualified dietitians are experts in assessing the food needs of people who are ill. They can review your diet and take into account any specialist dietary requirements you may have. If you’re not in hospital, your GP may refer you to a community dietitian.

    Macmillan has three booklets you can order for free called Eating problems and cancer, The building-up diet and Healthy eating and cancer.

    Eating problems and cancer gives information about how to cope with problems such as a sore or dry mouth, taste changes, a poor appetite, difficulty swallowing, bowel problems and many more issues.

    Image of Eating problems and cancer booklet

    The building-up diet has suggestions on how to boost your energy and protein intake when your appetite is poor or if you’ve lost weight.

    Image of The Building-up Diet booklet

    Healthy eating and cancer gives advice on how to eat well and maintain a healthy body weight.

    Image of the Healthy Eating and Cancer booklet

    It’s important to check with your hospital consultant, dietitian or nurse specialist to be clear which is the right booklet for you, and whether you need any additional information.

    Boosting energy and protein intake for those with a poor appetite

    Many people with cancer find that there are times when they can’t eat as much as usual, and sometimes they lose weight. This could be related to the cancer itself, or to the side effects of treatment. Some people find that they simply don’t feel hungry, or they feel full soon after starting a meal. Others find that food makes them feel sick, or that their treatment makes some food taste different.

    Macmillan’s booklet The building-up diet gives information about how to make changes to your diet to help you gain weight. It offers suggestions on how to help boost your energy and protein intake when your appetite is poor. It also contains sample menus and a shopping list of suggested items that may help when preparing meals.   

    If you have a good appetite, you shouldn’t have trouble eating the extra energy (calories) and protein that you may need if you are ill. However, if your appetite is not very good, there are a few ways you can add extra energy and protein to your diet without having to eat more food.

    Here is a list of possible items to stock up on so you’ll have some high energy and high protein items within easy reach:

    • Dried milk powder – You can make fortified milk by adding 2–4 tablespoons of dried milk powder to a pint of full-fat milk. Use fortified milk instead of water to make up soups, jellies, custard and puddings.
    • Porridge or oatmeal – Make porridge with full-fat milk or cream. Alternatively, pour fortified milk over cereal and add honey, golden syrup or maple syrup instead of sugar.
    • Lentils, beans and noodles – These can be added to casseroles and soups for extra protein.
    • Butter or cream – These can be added to enrich mashed potato, or to a sauce to be served with hot vegetables.
    • Snacks – Things like nuts, pasteurised cheese, fresh and dried fruit, biscuits, crackers, breadsticks with dips, yoghurts and fromage frais are handy to nibble on between meals. If you’re out of the house for some time during the day, for example attending radiotherapy appointments, consider taking some snacks with you.

    More helpful tips on managing your diet and coping with eating problems caused by cancer can be found in our free diet booklets, Eating problems and cancer, The building-up diet and Healthy eating and cancer.

     

    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

  • Meet Richard!

    Richard has gone from being a nurse to a writer. He is part of Macmillan’s Cancer Information Development team, which produces over 150 cancer information booklets. In this blog, he shares with us his experience of nursing, working for Macmillan, and running a hotel!

    Write a blog about yourself they said. Tell everyone about who you are and how you came to work at Macmillan, and what you do there. Well, here we go...

    Let me introduce myself

    Hello. I’m one of the nurses in Macmillan’s Cancer Information Development team. The team produces a huge range of information for people affected by cancer, in a variety of print, online and audio formats.

    It’s not just nurses, the CID team also includes editors, content developers and editorial assistants. Oh, and a couple of managers!

    The history bit

    I started nursing in the late ‘80s. I had great training at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury. My first job after qualifying was on a medical-haematology ward – looking after people affected by leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma. I enjoyed caring for people with cancer and I found it challenging. It wasn’t too long before I upped sticks and moved to London for further experience and training.

    I spent a number of years working and studying at the Royal Marsden Hospital, where I gained a broad experience in all types of cancer – and a degree in Cancer Nursing. Nursing shift patterns (especially nights) became less attractive after a while, so I moved to the cancer information charity Cancerbackup (formerly Cancerbacup), working on their helpline – 9 to 5! I began revising booklets and fact sheets during my time away from the helpline and gradually this part of my role took over.

    Cancerbackup merged with Macmillan in 2008 – and the rest they say is history!

    What I do now

    Working at Macmillan is great. I’m now home-based and work part-time – two days a week. As well as the hours I devote to the Cancer Information team, I also own and run a small hotel in Devon (which keeps me pretty busy for the rest of the week).

    A lot of my Macmillan time is spent revising and updating existing information, but I also get to write some new stuff too – Understanding anal cancer was a recent booklet I put together. I also tweet on the cancer information account @mac_cancerinfo

    Working from home really suits me. I’m pretty good at managing my time and, although I sometimes miss working as part of an (office) team, I have great contact with my colleagues and see them all regularly. Plus, I get help from my cats, who are always keen to lend a hand!

    As you can imagine, there’s a huge amount of work involved in keeping all of Macmillan’s cancer information up to date. But rest assured, there’s a terrific team of professionals beavering away!

    Cancer affects us all. As I get older more friends and family members are diagnosed and treated for cancer. My dad died from a brain tumour a few years back, and a very good friend’s son died from melanoma – he was just 15. So many people and families are going through this awful experience, but I’m proud to work somewhere that’s there to help, to help people understand what’s happening to them and give them the support they need.

     

    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

  • Bored of switching between fruit juice and water? Try these fun and tasty non-alcoholic cocktails!

    Having cancer treatment does not mean that you should draw a line on festivities. There’s always going to be a birthday or an anniversary to celebrate. When you’re not too tired you may want to have friends around for dinner or for a party.

    If you’ve had enough of alternating between fruit juice and water and want something a little more festive, there are some fun and delicious alcohol-free cocktails you can mix.

    Full of flavours, fresh fruits and bubbles (lemonade or soda water!), they can be truly delicious and offer a healthy and fun alternative to regular soft drinks.

    Our very conscientious team of editors agreed that we could not possibly write a blog about mocktails without sampling them first. Research is essential. So last week, armed with a blender, some ice and a bag full of fresh fruits, we set out for our alcohol-free cocktail evening. Abi was kind enough to let us invade her kitchen and hosted a great, vitamin-filled party.

    We tried 4 types of mocktails, all very different but all extremely successful amongst our team.

    Here are the recipes. The proportions are for 4 glasses.

     

    Lemon and Ginger Fizz

    • 5 teaspoons of (fine) caster sugar
    • Juice of 4 lemons
    • 16 slices of fresh ginger
    • Soda water
    • Ice
    • Fresh mint to sprinkle

     

    A photos of Sarah, Abi and Debbie drinking Lemon and ginger fizz

    Mix the sugar, the lemon juice and the ginger in a blender. Pour the mix in a jug and add soda water and ice cubes. Sprinkle with fresh mint and serve.

    We thought this was a light, zesty and very refreshing cocktail. Ideal to open your appetite. I’ve made it again since and served it to friends last weekend. They just loved it.

     

    Rum-free Mojito

    • Juice of 2 or 3 limes depending on how juicy they are
    • A small bunch of fresh mint
    • 8 tablespoons of brown (Demerara) sugar
    • Soda water
    • Ice
    • Slices of cucumber


    Mix the lime juice, the sugar and the mint in the blender. Pour the mix in glasses and top up with soda water and ice. Add some slices of cucumber to decorate.

     A photo of rum-free mojitos

    Easy and incredibly tasty!  It was probably our favourite that night.

     

    Virgin Colada

    • 16cl (160ml) of coconut milk
    • 36cl (360ml) of pineapple juice
    • Ice cubes


    Mix all ingredients in the blender including the ice cubes until you obtain a smooth mixture.

    This is a very exotic drink and definitely tastes of holiday. We had it at the end of our evening and it was almost like a dessert!

     

    Strawberry and beetroot (yes,  indeed!)

    • 100g of cooked beetroot
    • 20cl (200ml) apple juice
    • A pack of strawberries
    • Lemonade


    Mix the beetroot and the strawberries in the blender. Add the apple juice and blend again. Pour into a glass and top up with cold lemonade.

    A photo of Sarah and Abi drinking a strawberry and beetroot cocktail

    By far the most surprising beverage of the night and Sarah’s favourite, this deep pink drink is definitely on the sweet side.

    The fun thing about all those alcohol free cocktails is that you can experiment and be creative. Use the fruits that you love and add your own touch.

    And of course, if you are taking part in the Go Sober October campaign, don't hesitate to try those delicious recipes!

    So to your blenders... ready, steady, mix!

    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

     The recipes are adapted from virgincucumber.com 

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