Category Archives: What if …..?

Heart problems after cancer

Image by mozzercork via Flickr

Evidence presented at San Antonio

Anyone who has had heart problems, after cancer treatment, might be walking around today with an ‘I told you so’  look on their face.

We have long suspected that we might be getting more than we bargained for with cancer drugs, and proof has just come up at the San Antonia Breast Cancer Symposium.

San Antonio Symposium

Every year the world’s top breast cancer fraternity gather in San Antonio, USA, for the most prestigious conference.  Latest research and reports are aired;  this year one said “Postmenopausal women with early breast cancer who take newer hormone drugs known as aromatase inhibitors are 26% more likely to develop heart disease, than those who take the old standby tamoxifen”.

Eitan Amir, MD, a senior fellow in oncology and hematology at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, went on to say treatment with aromatase inhibitors is associated with a significant increase in the risk of cardiovascular events, specifically heart attacks, angina, and heart failure, compared with tamoxifen”.

However, the actual risk of any individual woman developing heart problems was relatively small — about 4% — in women taking either aromatase inhibitors or tamoxifen, he says.

In fact, the analysis showed that 132 patients must be treated with an aromatase inhibitor before one cardiovascular problem occurs. “This number needed to harm is relatively high,” Amir says.

But a woman who already has risk factors for heart disease and takes an aromatase inhibitor has a 7% chance of developing heart problems, Amir tells WebMD.

For the study, Amir polled the results of seven trials of tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors involving nearly 30,000 postmenopausal women with early breast cancer.

So should you be worried?

It makes sense to alert every doctor who treats you if you have any history of heart disease, if they are unaware of this.  And ensure you are given all tests and carefully monitored.

But if the worst happens – what then?

After being on Tamoxifen, then Arimidex, then Aromasin, I was sent to Mr. Mario Petrou at the Royal Brompton Hospital, in London, as I had heart problems.  He told me that I would need a seven-hour heart operation;  this turned into almost a holiday!

First, always get on the right side of people, so I made a large box of macaroons and took them in for the team that were going to operate on me.  When I woke up in Intensive Care there was a doctor leaning over me to say, “we are not sending you back to your room, we are sending you to the kitchen”.

Then, the team that looked after me were fantastic – from Patience who nearly had a heart attack herself when she found me lying on the floor.  For some reason, I fell out of bed (and I wasn’t drunk);  hadn’t hurt myself, but each night I was tucked up in a cot like a baby.  James came in every day to temp me with lovely food (not hospital-like at all), and Mr. Petrou came in every day of the 14 days I was there to see I was OK

And after-care for heart patients is far, far superior to that given to cancer patients.  Cancer patients often say they feel abandoned;  you couldn’t possibly say that after cardiac treatment.  We had a brilliant drugs helpline with all sorts of information about side effects;  a district nurse visited every morning and gave marvellous care, and I still get a call once every three months with a kind nurse asking “are you OK?”

The Operation might have been major, but after-care was maximum strength.

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What if you need Hospice care?

Frosty Campsie Fells
Campsie Hills  Andy_Mitchell_UK via Flickr


It was Hippocrates who is credited with saying that patients should be treated on the top of a hill, so that they could look around them and see beautiful views.

The people who planned the Marie Curie Hospice, overlooking Campsie Hills in Glasgow, have taken this to heart, and from every room you look over fantastic views stretching towards the hills that surround the city.

When one patient was offered a TV, he said why would he need one, when he had such wonderful view from his window?

The old hospice at Hunters Hill had catered for over a thousand patients a year.  It was opened in 1976, and was showing its age.  So Marie Curie decided a new hospice was needed, and set about raising over £16 million via The Big Build.  So successful has every fundraising event  been, from Line Dancing through to cycle events, and running to the Rotary Club, that there is only £950,000 left to raise!

Of course one blithely says ‘only’, and it is Fund Raising Manager Karen Milne’s job to raise the rest of the money, so if you want to help her ‘finish it off’, click the link below to donate.

As I was shown around by Karen, it was obvious that those who work here are very proud of the way the building has been designed.  Most of the rooms are singles with en-suite bathrooms, and every one has a door leading out onto a         balcony or terrace overlooking those fantastic views.They celebrate birthdays

The Hospice not only offers the in-care facilities for which Marie-Curie are famous, but it also has a thriving day care programme.  This offers  all kinds of therapies, from Acupressure, Massage, Reflexology, Shiatsu, etc.  And everywhere I went there were cosy corners where families and friends could sit with patients and make a cup of tea.  When I went to wash up my cup Karen told me someone would be along to do that!

Glaswegians are very proud of the work that Marie Curie does in the City.  The Connelly family has been heavily involved with the new hospice, and as their daughter, Maggie Glassford says, This is a place for people in real need; it’s a reassuring safety net.  Without the services the hospice provides it would be devastating for patients and their families”.

For anyone needing the hospice services, the impression that the cheerful and efficient Reception staff gave was extremely welcoming, and as a dog lover it was cheering to hear that pets are welcome guests, provided arrangements are made beforehand.

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Bowel Cancer

This is such an easy test to take, and there is no ’embarrassment’ factor.

If you haven’t already had a test sent to you through the post, ask your GP to get a Bowel Cancer testing kit sent to you.

A dinky little package arrives, with easy-to-read instructions on how to take a sample, which you scrape onto a card and cover with a plastic cover.  It then goes into a Royal Mail approved envelope, off to the laboratory, and you receive the results shortly after.

Don’t worry if you are asked to do another test.  Apparently as the system is so new a certain percentage of patients are being asked automatically to do them again, just to be sure.  However, a warning.  If you still feel there is something wrong, go and see the doctor.

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Examining moles for skin cancer

Melanoma left foot
Typical Melanoma Image


Bad news is – once you have had cancer every tiny pimple or mole sends warning signals – is this skin cancer?

Good news is -it is unlikely, but if is kin cancer it is easy to diagnose and treat.

So be skin aware – watch any moles and if they get bigger or inflammed, go to the GP.

Go to My Skin Check and check out your moles.

This is not a self-diagnosis tool, but the interactive information on the website is intended to help you understand the causes and risk factors of skin cancer, whilst telling you about consulting your GP or Dermatologist if you detect any changes. Or if you are worried about the form or size of a mole.

You can check your personal risk and also keep a record of changes on your skin – helpful in identifying when you should go for a check-up.

More helpful info on

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