Monthly Archives: April 2010

If NHS treated patients like grown-ups, they could save money

King's College London
Image via Wikipedia

Why do we have to be seen by a GP first?

In England, urgent suspected cancer cases must be referred by their GP to see a Consultant, wasting time.

Abroad, there is often no such barrier to a consultation and a patient book directly, so cutting out wasted waiting time.

Recently an international team – led by doctors from King’s College, London – looked at five year survival rates for lung cancer patients in UK, Sweden and Norway.  Long-term survival data showed Scandinavians likely to survive longer.

The report said all too often in this country, cancer is diagnosed later than it should be, but in Sweden and Norway, patients can book directly to see a specialist.

Abroad, I have often made an appointment to see a specialist directly.  Yet when I try to do the same in Britain,  a secretary will phone to say, “we haven’t received the referral from your GP”.  But my NHS GP has told me, “I don’t know anything about cancer.  You know more about cancer than I do”.  So why should I waste mine and their time?

Dr Mike Peake, a lung cancer specialist and one of the report’s authors, said “we don’t know exactly why there are these differences, but my feeling is that it is in large part down to delay in diagnosis.

“At one level this is to do with people not recognising their symptoms, feeling they should not bother their busy GP, or not wanting to be told off about smoking, but there are also doctors who dismiss a complaint as a simple cough.”

Cancer Research UK said it was working with the Department of Health and the NHS on an awareness and early diagnosis initiative:

  • “All too often in this country, cancer is diagnosed later than it should be.
  • “Although differences in treatment may play a role, spotting lung cancer early could make a real difference to survival rates.”

So perhaps if the NHS stopped acting as an agent of the Nanny-State, and let us take command of our bodies, we might save time, and from the NHS’s point – money.

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Age spots – and how to fade them

How to stop looking older

Age spots (those nasty big freckles you get on hands) are a dead give-away to anyone’s age.

Customs and Immigration are trained to look at your hands, not your face, to find your true age – although they do admit that they make mistakes when they check therapists working in beauty salons – their hands are in creams all day which helps retard ageing.

However, as if cancer treatment wasn’t enough, you may find your hands in particular covered in ‘age spots’.  This doesn’t do your self-esteem much good, makes your hands look much older, and they are often more noticeable in winter, as there is no sun-tan to help mask them.

Nurses will tell you these are a side effect of chemo or radiotherapy – but won’t have any ideas about helping spots to fade away.  So this is the time to try Clinique’s ‘Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector’ .

I  tried this fluid on a horrid crop of ageing spots, mostly on my left hand for some reason.  At first nothing happened, so I went down to see the girls on the Peter Jones counter, who told me not to worry.  They said that when they received training on using this product, they had been given two bottles, because Clinique said it took time to start to work on spots.

Gradually it seemed as if the skin on my hands was getting lighter – then it became obvious that the fluid was doing its stuff, and my spots were fading away.

I doubt if you will be able to get rid of spots totally -but the dark brown has faded away to a very light brown, with one or two large spots disappearing.  The background skin on my hands is whiter, and I no longer feel I have to hide my hands away (they were a dead give-away).

For the technical, the formula contains Glucosamine and Salicylic Acid to exfoliate and normalise cell turnover, and “assist the departure of surface pigmentation skin cells” etc.  It also contains a Vitamin C derivative. Ascorbyl Glucoside, to “help reduce the appearance of dark spots”.  30 ml  £37.50.

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Twenty years on, and Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream still gathers fans all over the world

Hero Product that help our skin

The people who founded Elemis twenty years ago are still there:

Sean Harrington, Noella Gabriel and Oriele Frank.

In the beauty business, it’s not often that people stick together for so long, but this proves that they make good products that the public love, and come back to time and time again.

One of their staples is their  Pro-Collagen Marine Cream;  launched in a new super-size, but otherwise giving the same benefits as it has for the past two decades.

Not surprisingly, this is now known and loved all over the world, and Noella, who is the Director of Product Development, says  “this really is the best product I have ever created and I am still so proud of it.”   And proving it works,  she hasn’t aged since the first time I met her.

The cream has been clinically trialled, and there is loads of data and tests to back up Elemis’ claims, but for me, the proof came when recently I bent down to kiss the cheek of a health journalist friend.  “Oh!  Your skin is so soft – what are you using?”  She commented.  This is music to anyone’s ears, particularly coming from a rival colleague!

Elemis make a wide range of products, and also have the flagship Spa in the middle of Mayfair – my ‘secret weapon’ when I need to zap the latest side effects from drugs – either for my body or facial skin, or when fatigue rears its ugly head.  Really, if the NHS prescribed Elemis – we wouldn’t need so many anti-depressants!

And, what is really pleasing, this is a British company yet a world-beater!

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Apps for Cancer

Apps around the world

This week a couple of US press offices emailed their list of Apps websites for cancer, so if you love Apps try these out.

Warning – I am an IT idiot;  don’t own an ‘Apps’ phone – so haven’t been able to check out any of these sites. So have asked friends to do the research (lovely lazy way of doing it!)

However, Lisa Fayed, from, who obviously knows her way around Apps, says, ”  when you are going through cancer treatment, it can be easy to become disorganized. Frequent doctors appointments, multiple medications, and social commitments can be forgotten if you don’t keep on top of them.

While missing a lunch date with a friend won’t harm you, missing your medication or a doctor’s appointment can definitely effect your health, so it’s vital to find a method of organization. These iPhone apps are perfect for managing and organizing your medical information and personal life.

iChemoDiary Cost: Free Designed by drug maker Merck, iChemoDiary helps you to track chemotherapy appointments, manage medication schedules, and record side effects and symptoms that you may experience. A great feature of iChemoDiary is that you are able to generate reports over a designated time period to provide to your doctor. The days of keeping a mental record of when fevers started and the exact temperature are over! This is a must-have app for people undergoing chemotherapy and their caretakers.

These are some other Apps that come highly recommended by users:

Awesome Note Cost: $3.99

Breast Cancer Ribbons (wallpapers)  $0.99 by AIM APPS

CancerCare Free by Stepworks
… iPod Touch. CancerCare is created by Hong Kong Cancer Fund and Stepworks for Hong Kong and the wider community … providing free information and professional support to anyone living with or affected by cancer. They help to make life better for people touched …

Cancer Health News Reader $0.99 grabs the top stories from the best cancer health news and information sites and delivers them to you.

Cancer Terms Pro Cost: $1.99 When medics blind you with science, you can translate their jargon here.

CaringBridge   Cost: Free CaringBridge is an app to be used with the free CaringBridge website, which can be described as a social networking site for people with conditions or diseases. It allows you to post health updates and any other information you would like to family and friends. It is perfect for those times when you get test results back and don’t feel up to calling your 10+ friends and family members who are all anxious to hear the results. This app is the mobile version, like MySpace or Facebook apps hat allow you to make posts from your phone or iPod.

Epocrates (free) – database of approved medicines

ExpressWell Cost: $.99

Fit Pro – Sport and Diet which is an application containing food, calorie and physical activity databases.  Supplied by Sony Ericsson, it allows you to enter daily food intake and exercise, set a daily calorie limit and obtain daily and monthly charts.;view=applications_section;returnView=home_section;applications_section_publisherId=0;psdp=false;browserLayout=detailBrowse;ix=1;browserFocusedId=2229919872;browserHlId=2229919872;secondLvlView=search_section

iHealth Log Cost: $1.99 Medication Tracker (free) – track your intake of pills and provide statistics on adherence     Living Beyond Breast Cancer

Sony Ericsson has an Apps Store, which is constantly being updated.     Some are free, for some there is a charge.     Sign up on  Some Apps are free, some charge. is a new search engine focused on the emerging market of iPhone & iPod Touch applications.  For cancer-specific Apps go to

I note that every website blog I have gone to to find out about Apps has a rider to say that the blogger hasn’t received any compensation.  I haven’t either – maybe I am missing something?  !!!

Please let me know of any new, innovative, helpful or funny Apps you come across, so I can put them up.  Write a comment below, or email


The first person to send in a list of helpful Apps is Ahmet S BOSNAK,Msc Ph.                                                              Ahmet is the Supervisor Pharmacist at the Oncology Hospital, University of Gaziantep in Turkey.  He lives in one of the oldest cities in the world, yet is totally up-to-date with today’s technology!

He says “we are looking these adresses in daily use:
for BSA
for solution osmolity for stability

Cancer Monthly sent in their list:

Cancer Monthly
Surviving Mesothelioma
My Cancer Place
Health Search Plus

CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control (DCPC) came back with a wonderful list:

CDC has a website specifically for mobile devices ( For more information about CDC’s mobile website, visit

It may be of interest to you that CDC offers several means of accessing cancer information in addition to the cancer prevention and control website (http:///, including eCards, content syndication, podcasts, widgets, social networking websites, and more. Please see these CDC web pages for more information:

For further information on the programs and activities of the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, please visit our website at You can now subscribe to be alerted by e-mail when our website offers new information on a cancer topic of interest to you. In the top right corner of selected web pages, you will see a link to “Get E-Mail Updates.” Click that link, enter your e-mail address, and you will be notified when important new information is posted on our website. You can unsubscribe at any time. Phew!as close to 500 million page views to the site, averaging 41 million page views per month.  Phew!

And another Merck website and on the right hand side,
you can click to go to more doctor information sites:…
main one:
Free golden links for Doctors:…

Here are other ones that may already be posted on the
above link, but might not be:
(5) Textbooks to read online:

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Facials should be on prescription for cancer survivors!

When your face glows – it makes you feel good

One day scientists will be able to measure the good a facial actually does for us.

In the meantime, when I interview patients, I am beginning to realise that those who go off for a facial or body massage about once a month, seem somehow better at facing up to cancer survivorship and the things this throws at us.

This makes sense.  We can either go off for counselling sessions, or decide to let someone work their magic on our bodies while we drift away.  Since the time of Hippocrates, massage has been acknowledged to do good.  So – as  my tolerance levels were getting low, and energy had gone out the window – it was time to head for charming little Lancashire Court, in between Brook Street and Bond Street in the heart of Mayfair. The moment my feet hit this cobbled mews, I begin to escape from the world, and imagine what it was like when people lived here, and stabled their horses behind their grand houses.

Handel must have kept his horses here;  recently Jimi Hendrix lived in Brook Street next to Handel’s House, and I imagine he would have kept a car here.  The Mews has bars, brasseries and restaurants, spilling out of what were once the stables, so if you have time you can sit out on the cobbles and have something to eat before your appointment.

I never know which of the treatments to ask for – I always say I have cancer-stressed skin, and leave the Elemis  therapists to work their magic.  This time they suggested a Pro-Collagen Quartz Lift Facial – an anti-wrinkle treatment with fantastic results.  It always manages to plump up my skin, I come out looking younger – really – and a week later I am still feeling how soft my skin is.

Sometimes people say a facial is pure indulgence! Sensible patients realise that it is vitally important to look after your facial skin. it is exposed to the elements on a daily basis, and if it gets cracked, it gives an open invitation to encourage infection and other problems. Hormonal drugs generally dry out facial skin, so it needs feeding from within and without.  Also, we get a ‘build up’ of fluids under the skin, and these need drainage.

I always start out thinking I am going to take note of what happens – then within five minutes I am in a state of suspended animation, floating away, and can never remember a thing.  Very remiss of me as the therapists are excellent and have spend ages learning how to work on us, but it is their fault that I am left feeling so blissfully spaced out!  Anyway, the end always comes as a surprise, and like a dog I have to shake myself and get up.  There always is a down-side!

As I left, I did remember to book in for a full massage, which is one of life’s greatest treats.  This is giving me something to look forward to!  And to buy a jar of their body scrub, which manages to get rid of the nasty scaly patches, without irritating my skin – and leave it soft and smooth.

As I drifted off down the Mews, my stresses and strains had floated away – and I wondered why we needed so many drugs – a gentle massage had made all my problems disappear.  Let’s ask MPs which we can’t have  a prescription for a massage on the NHS!

Elemis day-spa
2-3 Lancashire Court

Tel.  020 7499 4995

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Blood test for Breast Cancer – is this the answer?

Blood test kit
Image by ? Lee J Haywood via Flickr

Over Easter the papers were running a story on blood tests for Breast Cancer.

They reported that a Harley Street clinic are offering a simple blood test to detect early breast cancers.

After the long-drawn out libel case recently fought so successfully by Simon Singh (author of Trick or Treatment), one hesitates to venture an opinion – but here goes!

This test has been around since 2007, and one wonders why has it taken so long to be publicised?

Is it because NICE are doing their usual ‘heel dragging’ exercise, and taking that long to evaluate the test? One sympathises with Ian Gibson, the MP who did so much for cancer research, when at a cancer conference he questioned “what good is NICE?”

Or is it because currently the test is credited as being 75% effective, so putting it another way, one in four cancers WON’T  be detected.

But for those of you who are worried, the test, allied to a mammogram, could do a lot to alleviate concerns. It is carried out in a private Harley Street clinic, and you can arrange this through your NHS  GP.  If you ask for private treatment, they have to refer you, but you will have to pay the cost of £499, and any extras.

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Getting treatment in European hospitals on NHS

Latest information on new Cross Border Health proposals

For some extraordinary reason, the latest reading of this bill to allow European nationals to be treated in another country, with their country’s health service paying the bill, has foundered in the European Parliament.
It has been blocked by the Spanish – which seems weird.  Some Spanish hospitals are excellent, and would benefit by Britons asking to be treated there…..
John Bowis ex-MEP,  has said, “My own Cross Border Health Report was adopted at First Reading safely by the Parliament before I left (he resigned as an MEP in July 2009).
It then got blocked by the Spanish in the Council and we are in the Spanish Presidency until July.  However I am assured there will now be progress there before the Summer and therefore the Parliament will complete Second Reading by the end of the year.  No disease area is excluded from the proposal.  The only restrictions will be that the treatment is available in the home country and the recoverable cost must be no more than would be payable in the home country.  If it is more then of course the patient can pay the difference if he/she so chooses.

My successor as MEP for London and as the Delegation’s Health spokesman is Marina Yannakoudakis
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Colin Montgomerie and celebrity golfers say watch that sun!

Colin Montgomerie practicing a day before the ...
Colin Montgomerie   Image via Wikipedia

What Golfers Should Know About Skin Cancer

The days are getting longer, sun is at last threatening to appear (in between showers, snow storms and hail) and Golfers want to get out there.

But ….  beware.  The sun can be an enemy, and with skin cancer hovering as a threat, it’s wise to take sensible precautions.

When you rummage through your golf bag, along with the Tees, Balls, Clubs, Glove, etc. make sure you have a suitable Hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.

Golfers Are Especially At Risk for Skin Cancer
The first thing you should know is that we all are at risk of developing skin cancer, regardless of race or skin tone. Yet some of us are more at risk than others, and this includes frequent golfers. Why are golfers especially at risk of developing skin cancer? Lisa Fayed, Cancer expert, says why:

* Tee Times: Most people tee off between 10:00 a.m. and 2 p.m., which coincidentally is when the sun’s rays are at their strongest. Opt for an early morning or late afternoon tee time instead. It may also save you money on green fees to tee off at a later time also.

* Length of the Game: A typical game of 18 holes will take about 4 hours or so. A busier course will leave you outdoors for much longer, being exposed to harmful UV rays.

* Little to No Shade: Yes, golf courses are professionally landscaped with beautiful trees and foliage, but chances are you aren’t hanging out underneath it while you are golfing. If you can, try to rest under shade while you wait your turn.

What You Should Be Wearing to Play Golf Ideally, you should be wearing long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. However, this may not be practical in warm weather climates. When you can’t keep covered, remember to use sunscreen, even on cloudy days. Apply sunscreen to exposed skin, including areas that are often neglected — the hands, ears, and the back of the neck. Golf sandals are becoming increasingly popular, so don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your feet if you choose to wear them.

Sun-protective clothing is also available at sporting goods retailers and at many golf pro shops. The fabric used in sun-protective clothing works like sunscreen, allowing only a limited amount of UV rays to penetrate the fabric. It provides excellent protection and is recommended by several cancer organizations.

A hat or visor isn’t just for keeping the sun out of your eyes; it’s also for keeping the sun’s harmful rays off your face. Choose a hat or visor with a five-inch brim so it is long enough to provide adequate protection. A golf umbrella is another item that most golfers keep in the bag, but often forget about. An umbrella is a great way to get much-needed shade on those long, sunny days on the green.

Lynne Fraser, from the English Golf Union, echoes this advice, and send me this information from their website:

Melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, is rising faster than any other type of deadly cancer. To add to that, Cancer Research UK claims that sunburn tends to occur when people are not deliberately sunbathing, but are outdoors doing or watching sport.  Protection from the sun while out on an exposed golf course is therefore vital and protection is easy with regular application of sun cream.

Cancer Research UK claims that sunburn tends to happen when people are not deliberately sunbathing, but are outdoors doing or watching sport.

So protecting your skin from the sun while out on an exposed golf course is vital. With skin cancer a growing problem in the UK and protection easy with regular application of sun cream, now is the time to act.

Here are a few top tips for staying safe in the sun:

  • Apply sun cream 15-30 minutes before exposure to the sun and regularly reapply.  The more you apply the better protected you are.
  • Don’t forget to cover up exposed areas such as hands, ears, feet and behind the neck. Make sure they’re well protected by a high factor sun cream (SPF30 and above is best).
  • Use a high factor protection lipscreen to protect your lips from the sun.  Uvistat SPF 50 is one of the most effective lipscreens on the market with both high factor UVA and UVB protection.
  • Cover up as much as possible with loose fitting clothes and sunglasses as well as a wide brimmed hat to protect your head, ears and the back of your neck.
  • Always remember that the sun does not need to be hot to damage your skin.  The heat from the sun comes from infra-red rays, not UV rays, so you can still burn on cool days.

And don’t forget, if you have a shower then go and sit on the terrace for a welcome drink, re-apply sunscreen.

Colin Montgomerie

And if your club is looking for a suitable charity to benefit from an event, Colin Montgomerie has set up the Elizabeth Montgomerie Foundation in memory of his mother.

“In January 1991 I lost my mother, Elizabeth, to lung cancer. During this difficult time, I became aware of the devastating effect that cancer can have on the patient, their carers and families. With this in mind, I set up the Elizabeth Montgomerie Foundation with the aim of raising funds to provide information and support to those affected by cancer.

I am pleased to announce that the first project the Foundation will fund is the Elizabeth Montgomerie Building in Lanarkshire, a haven where users can go for advice as well as emotional and psychological support. We will develop this Building with Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres, who have built a great reputation in Scotland over the last 10 years or so, and I’m delighted to be working with them to create a new Centre.

To donate, or for more information go to

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