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Scottish Cancer Prevention Network | Putting Prevention First

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Breast Cancer

World Cancer Day – time to reflect on cancer prevention

Initially, the headline sounded good… “Decrease in the numbers of cancers diagnosed” – until you read the sub-title about diminished screening services, fear of going to GP’s and reduced access to diagnostic facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic (ScotGov2021)

If only we could decrease the numbers of people getting cancers especially late-stage disease and reduce incidence across all peoples- from poorest to richest from Northern and Southern hemispheres. We focus so much on early diagnosis (ScotGov, staging, 2021) as a way of reducing cancer morbidity (and mortality) but the lens on prevention has got very cloudy in the last couple of years. Focusing on health behaviours at a time when COVID-19 related stress and anxieties have risen has not become easier. We have watched obesity figures increase and greater alcohol consumption across  the Scottish population (SHS,2021).

As COVID-19 recedes it must be time to put health, not disease centre stage. Sadly, there are few vaccinations for preventing cancers – and where these do exist (like cervical cancer) we can see major differences in incidence (NHSScotland, 2022). For the most frequently occurring cancers, lifestyle matters a lot – almost 40% of cancers can be prevented and there might be good reasons for focussing on those cancers that are rising in Scotland which include kidney, prostate and uterus – all of which are obesity related. 

There is, however, increasingly good news as more research shows that weight loss can decrease risk in key obesity cancers including breast and bowel. These findings show that the damage created by excess body fat (and the mechanisms related to cancer development) can be reduced and it’s not too late to make a difference to change health and well-being. Like smoking cessation, weight management provides an opportunity to get some control back into our lives and to plan, one step at a time, how we want to lead in times of lower COVID risk.
The USA have reignited their Cancer moonshot – an ambitious plan to reduce the death rate from cancer by at least 50 percent over the next 25 years. Scotland has been a health exemplar in many ways and now it is time to seriously plan an equally ambitious and equitable cancer reduction plan that can also contribute to diminishing inequalities in health.

Professor Annie S. Anderson & Professor Bob Steele

Breast Cancer Now Volunteers Raising Awareness of Breast Cancer 

In Scotland, every year around 4,700 people are diagnosed with breast cancer. Raising awareness of breast cancer is key to achieving Breast Cancer Now’s vision that by 2050, everyone diagnosed with breast cancer will live and be supported to live well. To improve survival rates, people with breast cancer must be diagnosed as early as possible, when the chances of successful treatment are at their highest. 

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Dear Mum… #lookaftermum

Health has been centre stage for the past year.  I feel perhaps like many others, I have done a full 360o in terms of my mindset and mental health. When the pandemic hit and Scotland announced its first lockdown we were all a bit shook as to the speed of the sweeping deadly virus Covid-19. The uncertainty and powerlessness of the situation led my mood to spiral and I began comfort eating for the FIRST time in my life. How did I not notice? Emotional eating wasn’t a typical habit of mine. The whole world seemed to have gone to pot. Nothing was normal. I couldn’t see my family. I couldn’t see my friends. Everyone seemed to become really busy. My little boy was growing up fast and I couldn’t share this with anyone. In hindsight I guess I used food as a source of comfort in a time I felt unable to cope. Single parenting a toddler, with no respite, during a pandemic has certainly been tough.

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World Cancer Day 2021 – Time to think again

COVID-19

The global pandemic has been dominating the world of Scottish public health, primary care and acute medicine for the past year. We have watched the daily, weekly and monthly figures of cases, hospital admissions and deaths of the millions whose lives have sadly been affected or lost to Covid-19.

There are, on the other hand, many other worries and statistics that have always got less air time. Concerns about cancer diagnosis (especially delayed screening), treatments and recovery may have been severely impacted on many of thousands of people in Scotland during the pandemic, but the details do not regularly appear on our television screens. It is interesting to give thought to what might happen if we did receive daily reminders.

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Emergency food assistance during the COVID-19 lockdown period

Many people living with and beyond a cancer diagnosis received emergency food parcels from the government for the many weeks of lockdown. A recent survey of shielding experience undertaken by Public Health Scotland reported that 7% of respondents said they were struggling to access food that met their needs. Food provides much to our lives not limited just to nutrients. Professor Geraldine McNeill from The University of Edinburgh who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003 and a second breast cancer in 2010 provides some wider perspectives on food provision.

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The causes of cancer: implications for policy and practice

Professor Richard Martin, University of Bristol

Around 1 in 2 people in the UK will get cancer in their lifetime (Cancer Research UK). Over 40% of cancers are linked to a combination of 14 major lifestyle and environmental factors that are potentially preventable. The Integrative Cancer Epidemiology Programme (ICEP) uses cutting edge statistical methods and genetic data on 10s to 100s of thousands of people to provide high quality evidence on: the causes of cancers; factors influencing the progression of cancer; new ways to predict who will develop or die from these cancers; and new ways to prevent cancer and its progression. 

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Breastfeeding support during a pandemic #WBW2020

It’s World Breastfeeding Week and whilst this year the focus is supporting breastfeeding for a healthier planet…. here we are amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. So for many, this time without face-to-face support has been an extremely difficult one. New mothers navigating a world of breastfeeding alone can be terribly isolating, it is a world which requires friends, peer support, family and in some cases specialists to establish a feeding routine. 

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Covid, Cancer and Caring

So many things to worry about. Never has the threat of disease been more scary. Covid-19 itself takes over as our biggest fear, but the anxiety about cancer risks, symptoms and the pause on screening all add to the reasons why so many people worry and find it hard to take up lifestyle challenges.

Supporting the NHS in all its work is core to the health and well being of all of us. We know that the more actions we take to prevent or self-manage a disease the less we need to call upon the NHS. Although we know this,  it doesn’t mean we always do the “right things”. Many of our actions are related to low “headspace” where our minds are suffocated by the challenges of the day and finding our normal sane thinking space has gone. During the last few months I think we have all been there, experiencing times when we have been overtaken by that feeling of the unbelievable being real, the need to touch and see our best friends and fears about the future.

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Drinking during lockdown? – Alcohol and Coronavirus

How are you doing?… We are probably all feeling more stressed than usual.  As SeeMe, the mental health campaign, says: it’s okay to not be okay.  These are truly difficult times.  Like me, you may have lost someone you know to the virus, missed sharing a special occasion with family, or maybe finding it difficult to adjust to living within the confines of your home.  Perhaps you are a key worker, keeping the country going with essential supplies, bravery and care.  All of us need to take good care of ourselves and those around us, and to find ways of managing these new, intense pressures.

Continue reading “Drinking during lockdown? – Alcohol and Coronavirus”

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