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
  • Cancer information needs to be easier to read

    To see what else Macmillan's cancer information team has been blogging about, please visit our blog home page! You can subscribe to receive our blogs by email or RSS too.

    Around 16% of adults in England, or 5.2 million, can be described as "functionally illiterate". They would not pass an English GCSE and have literacy levels at or below those expected of an 11-year-old.

    - National Literacy Trust, 2014

    This statistic shows how we at Macmillan, along with other organisations producing health information, need to think carefully about the language we use and how we write. Over the last year, we’ve been trying really hard to lower the reading age of our cancer information, to make sure more people can read it. After all, cancer doesn’t discriminate, and many people who are diagnosed will not have good reading or health literacy skills.

    Have you used our information before? We’d really like to hear what you thought of it – please email Abi Delderfield at adelderfield@macmillan.org.uk with any comments or questions.

    Macmillan produces a wide range of written information, including booklets, web pages, leaflets and fact sheets. We spend months working on each piece of information, and we need to make sure that people can read and understand it so that it helps them on their cancer journey.

    When we looked at the reading age of our information, we found it was too high to reach many people in the UK. So we thought about ways to make our resources easier to read. These included things like writing shorter sentences and using simpler words. Our team has been using these new guidelines for the last year, and we think our information is definitely easier to read now.

    Sometimes, we still have to use long and complex medical words, such as ‘gastroenterologist’ and ‘bronchoscopy’. But, we think it’s important to use these, as people may hear health professionals using them during their treatment. And we always try to explain what they mean.*   

    It isn’t always easy to measure the reading age of information because there’s so much to consider. When we develop our cancer information, we think about lots of other things as well as the language. For example, we try to use the following features when we design our publications:    

    • lots of white space on the page
    • large font
    • photos
    • illustrations
    • infographics to explain complex text
    • tables
    • real quotes from people affected by cancer.


    Tell us what you think about our information. Can you understand the language? Did you find the photos, illustrations and infographics helpful? Was there anything you didn’t understand? Please email Abi Delderfield at adelderfield@macmillan.org.uk with any comments or questions.

    *A gastroenterologist is a doctor who treats stomach and digestive problems. A bronchoscopy is a test that looks at the inside of the lungs. 

    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

  • Searching for cancer information online – what to watch out for

    To see what else Macmillan's cancer information team has been blogging about, please visit our blog home page!  You can subscribe to receive our blogs by email or RSS too.

     

    Image of a computer mouse

    Over the last few decades, the internet has propelled the ‘Information Age’ into uncharted territory. We now have billions of web pages at our fingertips, all the free information we want, and the ability to communicate and share with people around the world. The internet offers people the chance to share anything they want, and  to have more autonomy by getting information freely and easily. But we’ve also got to cope with things like information overload and untrustworthy websites.

    If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, chances are you’ll go online at some point to find information. But it can be tricky to know whether the information you’re reading is reliable and accurate.

    Here at Macmillan, we know that information empowers people to understand their illness better and make informed treatment decisions. It also gives people a way to find further sources of support. So, while we want to encourage people to seek out information if this helps them, we also want to offer some tips to help you avoid incorrect, biased or even dangerous cancer information online. 

    Why you can trust Macmillan’s information

    All our information at Macmillan is written by experts in cancer care. And it’s all reviewed by both medical professionals and people affected by cancer. It is accredited with the Information Standard, which means it’s been through a rigorous review process. We also update our information every two and a half years to make sure it’s always up to date.

    For information about cancer, visit macmillan.org.uk\cancerinformation. If you’re wondering about something specific, use the search function on the website. If you’d prefer a booklet or leaflet on a certain topic, visit be.macmillan – they are all free and will be delivered to you in just a few days. There are lots of cancer information audiobooks on be.macmillan too, and we can produce other audio, translated, Braille, or large print versions of our information on request.

    Image of the Macmillan logo

    How to know if other online information is safe

    If you want to look for information beyond Macmillan, it’s important to make sure it’s trustworthy. Here are some tips to help you:

    • If the organisation operates in England, does it have the Information Standard logo? This is a sign that the organisation has been assessed and is producing information that is evidence-based, medically accurate, up-to-date and reliable:
      Image of the Information Standard logo
    • In all nations in the UK, you can use the Health on the Net (HON) website to find reliable health information online. Type a topic into the search box at the top-left of their website.
    • Look at the website’s ‘About us’ page – is the website run by a health or non-profit organisation (.org), branch of government (.gov), university (.ac.uk) or hospital? If so, it’s probably safe. If it’s a business or commercial website (.co.uk, .com), it might be trying to sell you something rather than give you unbiased information.
    • Does it include its editorial policy on the website? This might be under ‘About us’ or ‘About this website’.  Check whether information is reviewed before it’s published, and check what evidence the organisation is basing its information on. If you want current, unbiased information based on research, it doesn’t hurt to be sceptical. You can read Macmillan’s editorial policy for an idea of what to look for.
    • Do the web pages say when they were published? And was it within the last few years? Do the web pages say when they will next be reviewed? These are all good signs.
    • Pay close attention to where the information on the website comes from. Many health and medical websites collect and post information from other websites and sources. The original source should be clearly identified, so be careful of sites that don’t say where their information comes from.
    • Does the website include links to ‘Sources’, ‘Evidence’ or ‘References’? Reliable health information should be based on appropriate sources, which you should be able to find out from the website. References might include national clinical guidelines, medical journals or cancer research studies.

    If you’re interested in health information

    If the field of health information is something you feel strongly about, you may want to visit the Patient Information Forum’s website. The Patient Information Forum is a membership organisation for professionals/organisations working in health information, but they have regular news updates on their website about health information today, why it’s important and what charities and organisations are doing in this area.

    You can help Macmillan improve its cancer information by becoming a reviewer. This means you can comment on our booklets and leaflets to help us improve them. It’s something you can do from home, in your own time, as often as you like.

    Advice from other people 

    Image of a tin can telephone

    Although it is advisable to seek any medical information from reliable, professional sources, it is true that sometimes the best advice can come from people who’ve been there themselves. In Macmillan’s online community, you can share your experiences and get tips and advice from others who know what you’re going through.

    At other times however, you may be given incorrect, biased or sometimes down-right odd advice by friends or other people you meet! We’d like to ask you to share your experiences of being given good, bad or strange information about cancer. You can do this in the comments box 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).

    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

  • Heart health and cancer treatment

    To see what else Macmillan's cancer information team has been blogging about, please visit our blog home page!  You can subscribe to receive our blogs by email or RSS too.

    Has your heart been affected by cancer treatment? Or do you have an existing heart condition as well as cancer?

    Macmillan has recently been working in partnership with the British Heart Foundation to produce a new booklet called Heart health and cancer treatment. The booklet explains how the heart works and how some cancer treatments, in some cases, can cause heart problems. It also discusses how these can be managed by your medical team.

    We’ve included lots of information about steps you can take to look after your heart. For example, the booklet includes these ten top tips for before, during and after cancer treatment:

      Ask your cancer doctor if the treatment you are having is likely to affect your heart. If it is, find out how they will monitor your heart during your treatment.

      Tell your cancer doctor if you already have a heart problem, high blood pressure or a family history of heart problems before you start your cancer treatment.

      Make sure any heart problems you have are controlled before your cancer treatment begins. For example, if you know your blood pressure is usually high, get it checked by your GP. You may be prescribed medicines to control it.

      When you come to the end of your treatment, ask your cancer doctor if you will need regular heart check-ups, and for how long these should continue.

      Continue to take any medication that you have been prescribed for your heart and don’t stop taking it unless you’ve been told to. If you have troublesome side effects, talk to your doctor.

     I take eight medicines a day but it is a small price to pay. They are helping to keep me healthy. My last chemo treatment was in 2000 so this coming September, it will be 14 years.

      Attend your heart follow-up appointments, even if you don’t have any heart symptoms. Remember that early damage to the heart may not cause symptoms. But any damage may show up on tests arranged during follow-up appointments. This means it can be treated quickly and more serious heart problems can be prevented. 

      Know the symptoms of heart disease and if you get any of them, see your GP.

      If your lifestyle means you are at a greater risk of heart disease, change it. Eating well, doing regular exercise, reducing stress, drinking alcohol moderately and stopping smoking will all improve your heart health.

     The one thing I've discovered is this - being healthy is about changing your lifestyle, not just going on a diet. It's about getting the right advice and making simple changes. They can make all the difference in the world.

      Make sure you’re getting the right support. You can get more information about heart disease and support from the British Heart Foundation. Call their Heart Helpline on 0300 330 3311 (Monday–Friday, 9am–5pm). If you’d like more information about cancer and its treatment, contact Macmillan Cancer Support on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday–Friday, 9am–8pm).

      If you feel stressed or anxious, get support from the people around you and try using relaxation techniques.

    The booklet also gives an overview of some of the common drugs that you may be prescribed if you have problems with your heart, including how they work and possible side effects. Plus, we go into greater detail on ways you can keep physically active, what foods you should be eating more and less of, and how you can help control stress and anxiety.

    The booklet has been enriched by quotes from people in this very online community! So a big thanks to those of you who let us use comments from your conversations.

    We hope this new booklet will be helpful for lots of you. You can order a free copy from be.Macmillan or call us on 0808 808 00 00.

    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 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

    Join our anal cancer group on the Online Community.

    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

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