Friday, 1 March 2013

March = Brain, Ovarian and Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

Happy Friday one and all. I really apologise for thelack of posts recently, work and life gets hectic at times! I am aiming to postmore frequently from now on though!

We are in March already, time is flying as always.March is the awareness month for Brain, Ovarian and Prostate Cancers. I havecovered these cancer types in posts before but wanted to refresh your memorieswith a basic outline of the these three types of cancer.

The Brain
*The brain controls the body. EVERYTHING involves the brain. Itsends out electrical messages through nerve fibres, which run out of the brainand join together in the spinal cord. The brain and spinal cord make up thecentral nervous system. Billions of nerve cells called neuronesmake up the brain as well as supporting cells known as glial cells.The brain is surrounded by three thin sheetscalled the meninges. The brain andspinal cord are in a fluid called cerebrospinal fluid. The Largest part of the brain is the forebrain which is divided into left and right sides known as hemispheres.these hemispheres are then divided into lobes and each of these lobescontrols a different part of the body. The brain has two smaller parts: the hindbind controls balance andcoordination whilst the brain stem controls automatic body functions.The middle of the brain is the pituitary glandwhich produces hormones that control many of our body functions.

Brain Tumours

* Any part of the brain can be affected by a brain tumour.
* They develop from:
- Cells that make up brain tissue
- Nerves entering or leaving the brain
- The brain coverings (meninges)
* The symptoms suffered will differ depending on which part of the brainthe tumour is growing in. This is because each part of the brain has adifferent purpose and affects different parts of us.
*  Most adult brain tumours are in the forebrain, the meninges or thenerves entering and leaving the brain. Most adult brain cancers do not beginthere but are generally other types of cancers that have spread to the brain.This is known as a secondary cancer.
* 60% of childhood brain tumours are in the hindbrain or brain stem.Secondary brain cancer is rare in children.

Causes of BrainTumours

Not much is known about what causes a brain tumour but several riskfactors have been identified:
* Age - Brain tumours do not discriminate: you can get them at anyage. However, the older you get, the more common they get. however, somespecific types are much more common in children and it is the second mostcommon cancer in children.
* 5% of brain tumours are caused by genetics. If a parent or sibling hashad a tumour of the nervous system then your risk is double that of otherpeople.
* A weak immune system means you have an increased risk of developing abrain tumour.
* Radiation is a definite risk. Brain tumours are common in people whohave had radiation treatment on their head before.
* Brain tumours are slightly more common in men then women. HoweverMenigioma (a type of brain tumour) is more common in women.

* The most common brain tumour symptoms are headaches and fits. Howeverplease don't panic because not all fits and headaches mean you have a braintumour. A fit doesn't just have to affect your whole body: it can be a jerkingor twitching in your arm, hand or leg. About one in three people with a braintumour will visit a doctor because of headaches because they generally tend to bequite bad if caused by a tumour. 
* Growing tumours create pressure inside your skill. This is known asintracranial pressure. This can cause headaches, sickness and drowiness as wellas fits and eye problems.
* Brain tumours press on the surrounding brain tissue. This means it willaffect whichever part of the body that is controlled by that part of the brain.This means they can cause a wide variety of symptoms:
- Physcial sumptoms include weakness or numbness in particular body partsand problems with your senses.
- Mental symptoms include changes in personality, speech, memory andconcentration.


Ovarian Cancer
The Ovaries:
The ovaries are part of the femalereproductive system along with the vagina, uterus (womb) and fallopian tubes.You have two ovaries, one of the left and one on the right. Each month, afertile woman will produce an egg in each ovary. The ovaries are alsoresponsible for producing the female sex hormones, oestrogen and progesterone,throughout a woman’s childbearing years. These hormones control your menstrualcycle and as you approach menopause, the amount of hormone produced lessens andyour periods eventually stop completely.

Ovarian Cysts:
A cyst is a sack filled with fluid.Fertile woman develop cysts each month as their eggs are developed. They arenot usually cancerous or anything to worry about. However, sometimes theyappear larger than normal or are there for longer than normal and at this pointthey should be investigated. Any post menopausal woman developing cysts shouldalso be investigated. If your cysts are painful or cause you to developsymptoms then you should see your doctor ASAP.

Ovarian Cancer:
At the moment, ovarian cancer is thefifth most common cancer in females. Epithelial ovarian cancer makes up over90% of ovarian cancer cases. Epithelial simply means surface layer. So thecancer is in the surface layer of the ovary.

Screening for Ovarian Cancer:
Unfortunately there is not ascreening test available to screen for ovarian cancer safely, accurately andreliably. There are clinical trials taking place to discover one but  atthe moment there is not a general screening test available for all members ofpublic.

Some women are at higher risk ofdeveloping ovarian cancer then others. If you are unfortunate enough to havetwo of more  family members of the same side (so either maternal orpaternal) that have been diagnosed with ovarian or breast cancer at a young agethen you are at a higher risk of developing the disease, especially if thoserelatives were diagnosed at a young age (before 50)
If this applies to you then pleasespeak to your GP about going to your local genetics service. They will be ableto look into your family history with you and offer you some counselling andadvice about screening.

Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer:
As previously mentioned, ovariancancer symptoms are very hard to find, especially at the early stages. Manywomen in the early stages of ovarian cancer don’t report any symptoms at all.Symptoms can become apparent when the cancer has spread from the ovary.Sufferers of advanced ovarian cancer will display more symptoms. I will listsome symptoms to look out for:
Early Symptoms –pain in lower abdomen or side and a bloated feeling in the abdomen.
Symptoms when The Cancer has Spread –abdominal pain, back pain, passing more urine than normal, constipation, painduring sex, swollen abdomen, irregular periods and bleeding after the menopause
Advanced Symptoms -loss of appetite, feeling sick, being sick, constipation, tiredness, shortnessof breath, a noticeable swelling in abdomen

As I mention all the time, the keyto surviving cancer is diagnosing it as early as possible so if you suspectanything at all, or are worried about symptoms, please make an appointment withyour doctor as soon as you possibly can. Particular symptoms require urgentattention from your doctor:
·                    Tummy pain
·                    Swelling or bloating of the abdomen
·                    Constipation
·                    Back pain
·                    Urinary symptoms


The Prostate:
The prostate is a gland found onlyin males. It surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine from thebladder to the penis. It also carries semen. The prostate is responsible forcreating the fluid part of semen. The prostate needs testosterone (the male sexhormone) to grow and function.

Symptoms of Prostate Cancer:
Having to rush to the toilet to passurine
Difficulty in passing urine
Passing more urine than normal,especially at night
Pain when passing urine
Blood in urine or semen (very rare)

These symptoms are the same forprostate cancer and an enlarged prostate so it is important to go to the GP assoon as they appear. The symptoms are usually caused because the growth ispressing on the urethra and is blocking the flow of urine. It is important toremember that early prostate cancer does not usually cause any symptoms becausethe growth is too small to affect the flow of urine.  Prostate cancerusually grows quite slowly, especially in older gentleman. They may only suffermild symptoms and they may occur over a number of years.

Causes and Risks:
Prostate cancer is the most commoncancer for UK men (not counting non melanoma). There are some risk factors:
* Age is the most significant ofthese risk factors. Prostate cancer is quite rare in men younger than fifty –in fact more than half of all prostate cancer cases are found in men agedseventy plus.
* Having a family history of breastcancer or prostate cancer will also heighten your risk of developing this typeof cancer
* If you are of African ancestrythen your risk is also higher as this type of cancer is more common in men ofblack or mixed race descent then white or Asian men

The aim of screening for prostatecancer is to diagnose the disease in the early stages when it is usually easierto treat and most likely to be curable. At the moment a national screening testis not available but research is being carried out and trials are taking placeall the time.

Diagnosing Prostate Cancer
If your GP suspects prostate cancerthen they will:
* Examine your prostate by placing agloved finger into your back passage
* Get you to have a blood test tocheck your PSA levels (PSA = Prostate Specific Antigen)

This is not as painful or asembarrassing as it sounds. GP’s do this all the time and although having afinger inserted into your bottom may sound horrific, I am told by reliablesources that is really isn’t as bad as it sounds. Please don’t let the fear orembarrassment stop you getting this test if you feel you have a problem withyour prostate – it could save your life.

With PSA levels, it is usually thehigher the level, the more likely you are to have cancer. However, don’t be tooalarmed by this fact – there could be another reason, for example an enlargedprostate or an infection. In fact, two out of three men with a raised PSA leveldo not have prostate cancer. It is possible for a man to have prostate cancerbut not a high PSA level – this is where the gloved finger comes in handy.


Please be alert and aware of what is normal for yourbody. If you do notice any changes, get them checked as soon as possible. Earlydiagnosis is key when it comes to cancer and could save your life!


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