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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
  • Helping people feel less alone with our cancer information

    Photograph of a woman in the isolation box at Paddington station

    You may have seen our isolation box in Paddington station in London last week. This gave people the experience of being alone in a crowd. We know that lots of people affected by cancer feel alone, and we hope that our range of cancer information goes some way to showing people that we are here for them.

    The Cancer Information Development team at Macmillan does certainly produce a lot of information – over 160 printed resources and over 3000 web pages. Last year, we sent out 1.8million information resources to people affected by cancer.

    Most people ordered Help with the cost of cancer, with about 7000 copies sent out each month. Other popular titles included Coping with fatigue, Understanding chemotherapy and What to do after cancer treatment ends: 10 top tips.

     

    Last year, our cancer information web page received over 350,000 visitors. And over 260,000 people visited our signs and symptoms web page.

    So, does our information actually help people?

    Over the last couple of years, we’ve been asking people what they think about our information and how it helped (or didn’t help) them.

    Most people felt that our information met their expectations. People found it reassuring and also described it as 'easy to digest' and 'straightforward'.

      The booklet is brilliant. If you wake up in the dead of the night you can read it and feel reassured.

    There are quite a few websites- I found a lot of them difficult to understand. Macmillan's was one of the easiest to understand and use, it reaches you on a personal level, and talks about how cancer would affect you personally.

    We’re really happy about this because our team puts a lot of time and energy into making our information as clear and easy to understand as possible.

    However, when we looked at whether people felt less anxious and alone after reading our information, we found this was something we weren’t fully achieving. This is something we want to fix. Some people told us that no information could ever change the way they feel about their cancer diagnosis. But others said they wanted more messages about the fact they’re not alone, and about ways Macmillan can help them.

    So, we’re thinking hard about ways our information could help people feel less alone. We’re using plain and simple language and trying to use more relevant photographs and illustrations. We’re putting more case studies on our front covers and including more quotes in the booklets. We’re also including thinking tools in some information. These encourage people to write down how they’re feeling, what’s important to them or what problems they want to address and how. We hope these tools help people take some control back over their lives during their cancer journey.

    Did you feel less alone after reading our information? We’d love to hear about your experience of using information during your cancer journey, and how it helped you. Write your comment below, or email us at cancerinformationteam@macmillan.org.uk

    This blog was written by our Cancer Content Coordinator, Genevieve. 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.

    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

  • Sex, relationships and fertility – support for young people affected by cancer

    Sex and relationships are important. Macmillan knows that cancer can have a big impact on them.

    If you’re a teenager or young adult when you are told you have cancer, it will have a big impact on the decisions you make. Everyone will have different priorities. You may be worried about how cancer and its treatment might affect your relationships or sex life. You may have questions about fertility issues, perhaps during your treatment, or a long time after.

    We want to tell you about our new information booklets for young people, Sex and Relationships and Fertility. Hopefully these will help you find a way to talk about what’s worrying you - whether it’s how cancer can affect sex, fertility issues, or how to talk about difficult subjects with your partners, friends, family or healthcare professionals.

     

    ‘What I found strange was losing hair from other parts of my body, particularly in sensitive areas. I was single when I first got diagnosed, but I met my current girlfriend during my chemotherapy. It kind of felt strange to be entering into a sexual relationship with such a different body to the norm. I just felt I had to take things a little bit slower, and I was quite honest about those sorts of things.’

     

    During or after treatment, you may worry about how the cancer and its treatment might affect your relationships. You may worry about this as soon as you are told you have cancer. Or you may only become aware of changes to your sex life as you go through treatment, or after it’s finished. In the Sex and Relationships booklet, we talk about some of the possible effects that cancer can have on having sex, your body image, your feelings and your relationships. We suggest some things that might help.

    Young adults who’ve finished treatment, perhaps even a few years ago, might start to worry about how the treatments they had for cancer might affect their ability to have children.

    'They did explain that treatment could reduce fertility but at the time I was 21. It was kind of the last thing on my mind. But it has been getting to me recently as I’ve been getting older and we’ve had a couple of babies in the family'.

    The Fertility booklet covers fertility testing, fertility preservation and treatments. It talks about things that might come up when you start thinking about becoming a parent.

    There are other ways of getting support. Lots of young people like to give and get support from each other. Our online community group 16-24 and living with cancer is one place you can do this.

    We hope the information in this blog has helped you find the support you need. We’re here for everyone affected by cancer – those diagnosed, relatives, friends, and colleagues – so please get in touch if you need support.

    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.

    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

  • Easy relaxation tips

    Practising relaxation techniques can help you cope with the side effects of cancer, such as anxiety, breathlessness and fatigue.

    Relaxing

    As you cope with the effects of cancer, you may feel like it’s difficult to relax. It could help to do some relaxation exercises to ease your anxiety, to help with breathing or just to take your mind off things. Relaxing could also help you if you’re having trouble sleeping.

    Check with your doctor or nurse before you try any relaxation methods, it could be that they are not suitable for you.

    The following relaxation techniques are best practised in a peaceful place, where you can get comfortable either sitting or lying down. It should be a warm room and, if you prefer, somewhere with dim lighting:

    • Breathing exercises – If you can, breathe in through your nose and then out with your mouth. Try to breathe more slowly and deeply with each breath, taking breaks to return to your normal breathing where necessary.

      Start by counting one breath in to the count of two and one exhale out to the count of two. If you can increase this up to the count of four then you should start to feel nice and relaxed.

      Practise this for around five minutes a day.

    • Muscle release – Often our muscles build up tension, making it more difficult for our body and mind to relax. It may help for you to mentally scan your body for tension and allow it to release.

      We have a step-by-step relaxation guide to releasing tension.

    • Listening to music – You can find CDs or online sources of relaxing music. It may help soothe your mind to  listen to sounds from nature, such as waves rolling on to a beach, jungle sounds or rain sounds.

      Similarly, listening to an audiobook rather than reading may prove to be more relaxing for you, especially if you’re trying to drift off to sleep.

    • Mindfulness – Mindfulness is an approach that can help you change the way you think. It aims to get you to focus on the present moment, rather than the future or the past. You are encouraged to try to let thoughts and feelings go for that moment and focus on something else, like your breathing or an object.

      If any negative or stressful thoughts arise, imagine they are being swallowed up by a large cloud and swept away by the wind, out of your mind. Return to concentrate on your breathing. If the thoughts creep back in, repeat the technique. 

    Relaxation techniques are not a form of treatment for cancer, but some people find they help them to cope.

    We have more information about relaxation and mindfulness meditation on our website. You can order our ‘Relax and breathe’ CD for free.  It helps you learn ways to manage breathlessness through breathing techniques. You can find relaxation CDs at your local library too.

    We also have more information on coping with your emotions and how to cope with fatigue.

    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.

    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

  • Cervical Cancer Prevention Week 2015

    Every day in the UK, eight women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer.* But did you know that with regular screening, it can often be prevented? Despite this, the uptake of cervical screening is decreasing year on year, which is something that the 2015 Cervical Cancer Prevention Week from 25–31 January is hoping to help turn around**.

    Cervical screening

    In the UK, all women between the ages of 25 and 64 are eligible for a free cervical screening test every three to five years (depending on your age). Some women can understandably feel nervous about getting screened.

    While some women may be uncomfortable about getting screened – especially for the first time – they often say later that it was easier than they imagined. What’s more, with early detection and treatment preventing 75% of cancers developing, it can be a lifesaver.***

    'In my experience it's not painful, I'm not particularly embarrassed, and it's just one of those things that you want to get done to make sure everything is alright.'

    In this video, a consultant gynaecological surgeon explains cervical smear tests and how they can prevent cancer:

    Still image from our video about cervical screening

    Cervical cancer symptoms

    The most common symptom of cervical cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding, usually between periods or after sex. Other symptoms can include a smelly vaginal discharge and discomfort during sex. Women who’ve gone through the menopause and no longer have periods may find they have some new bleeding.

    More information

    If you want any more information about symptoms or screening, we have information about cervical cancer and cervical screening on our website. Or, order a free copy of our booklet Understanding cervical screening.

    To get involved with Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, visit Jo’s Cancer Trust website. You can help with their social media campaign, or simply help distribute posters and leaflets where you live.

    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. 

    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

    Sources

    *Cancer Research UK. Cervical cancer key stats. http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/keyfacts/cervical-cancer/uk-cervical-cancer-statistics

    **Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. Smear campaign against cervical cancer launches as over one million women fail to attend screening and incidence rises in the under 35. http://www.jostrust.org.uk/smear-campaign-against-cervical-cancer-launches

    ***Cancer Research UK. Cervical cancer screening. http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/spotcancerearly/screening/cervicalcancerscreening/cervical-cancer-screening

  • Head and neck cancer: don’t let eating problems get in the way of your social life

    Head and neck cancer is the seventh most commonly diagnosed cancer, with over 62,000 people living with it in the UK. Cancer can occur in any of the tissues or organs in the head and neck, including the mouth, throat, thyroid or larynx (voicebox). Most head and neck cancers are treated by surgery, radiotherapy, or a combination of both.*

    The illustration on the left shows a cross-section of the head, with the sinuses, nasal cavity, nasopharynx, floor of mouth and tongue labelled. The illustration on the right shows the inside of the mouth, with the lips, hard palate, soft palate, oropharynx, tonsils and tongue labelled.

    Eating and socialising

    Treatment for head and neck cancer can cause problems with eating and swallowing. Such problems can be more pertinent during social occasions, which are often based around carefree eating and drinking.

    Those who are suffering from eating problems (including anyone who has had chemotherapy – not just those with head or neck cancer) can often feel more self-conscious or anxious on such occasions. If you have difficulty eating here are some suggestions you may find helpful for still enjoying those social occasions:

    • If you feel self-conscious about eating in front of others, first get used to eating at home with people you know. When you feel ready to try eating away from home, do something simple to start with, such as going to a café you know well and ordering something easier to eat. You can build from there as your confidence grows.

    • If you’re worried about keeping family or friends or colleagues waiting while you eat, talk to them about this. They can reassure you that they don’t mind you taking longer. You’ll probably find they’re more relaxed about it than you think.

    • When inviting people over for a meal, we often make allowances for guests with different dietary needs, for example if someone doesn’t eat meat or can’t eat gluten. So tell your host in advance if you need food of a certain texture or thickness, or if you can’t eat spicy food. This helps them to prepare food that suits you. Or you can ask if you can bring your own food to be heated up.

    • If you’re going out to eat in a restaurant, try to look at the menu before you go. You can find out if they offer meals that suit you or that can be adapted for you. Try contacting them in advance to ask if they can make changes to a dish, such as adding extra gravy, leaving out certain spices, or blending your food.

    • If you take some meals as liquid supplements, ask the restaurant if they can provide you with a cup. This means you can take a liquid supplement meal while your friends order from the menu.

    • People who don’t know you may ask about your eating difficulties when they first share a meal with you. You may find it helpful to think of what you want to say beforehand. Or you might decide you don’t want to explain it at all. You could ask your host to tell other guests in advance and add that you’d prefer not to talk about it. Do whatever makes you feel comfortable.


    Although you might feel worried about eating in public, it is important to remember that social occasions are about spending time with family and friends. Hopefully these tips have reassured you that loved ones do not mind being flexible about food, and care much more about enjoying spending time with you!

    When this happens to you and you look at yourself in the mirror, you wonder what on earth you are going to do. But there is a future. Yes, it’s life changing, but it’s not the end of the world.

    For more information, you may find these free booklets helpful:


    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. 

    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

    Sources

    *Macmillan Cancer Support. The rich picture on people with head and neck cancer. http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Documents/AboutUs/Research/Richpictures/update/RP-People-with-head-and-neck-cancer.pdf

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