A survey has found that a quarter of people in the UK have a Fear Of Finding Out health problems
GP and author Dr Ellie Cannon, our resident health expert, gives us the lowdown on the 3 biggest health stories this week.
1. Do you suffer from FOFO?
Hang around for a while next time you are in the loo to see what is going on. Looking before you flush is the latest message from Public Health England for us to be clear on cancer. Most women certainly notice blood at times not just from periods but commonly blood in the urine comes from a urine infection such as cystitis. But rarely it can be a sign of kidney or bladder cancer, so whatever you do don’t ignore it when you’re not expecting it. And according to latest figures for the UK, we are a nation who like to ignore things – whilst many of us admit to having FOMO, apparently a lot of us also have what is dubbed FOFO – fear of finding out about health problems. A survey by Populus has found that a quarter of people in the UK would not bother having a symptom examined for fear of the what the doctor may find and another 20% wouldn’t bother due to inconvenient appointment times or being too busy. This is a sorry state of affairs and certainly explains the poorer rates of early diagnosis in the UK compared to other countries.
2. This is the best age to freeze your eggs
Choosing to freeze your eggs is a decision more of us are making faced with waning fertility and a biological clock. But health bodies are urging caution to women tempted by success stories and the increasing normalisation of the technique. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists advised women to be careful of the process which often incurs massive costs and side effects. Undoubtedly egg freezing offers women the chance to increase that window of opportunity to have a family when fertility may be declining naturally. But the majority of women are still taking the egg freezing opportunity too late, as a ‘last ditch’ attempt, rather than making a planned choice to freeze eggs in their early 30s when it is more likely to succeed. We all overrate success rates and underestimate the costs: because of lower success chances per egg with increasing age, a woman in her late thirties would need approximately 30 eggs to have a good chance of pregnancy. That would mean an average three cycles of ovarian stimulation to produce enough at a cost of around £15,000. And this excludes an annual storage fee of £200-400 and the cost of fertility treatment to use the eggs. And despite the cost, there is of course, no guarantee of a baby at the end.
3. Take the HPV shot
It is amazing news for all of us that the HPV vaccine is to be extended to boys in England, Scotland and Wales. Of course the HPV vaccine programme was originally introduced to offer women protection against cervical cancer, and it has already been a success with an 86% reduction in the prevalence of the cancer-causing virus HPV. But HPV doesn’t just cause cervical cancer: it is responsible for 5% of all cancers worldwide including cancers of the penis, anus and head and neck cancers, so the more of us who are protected – both male and female – the better to protect our whole community, across all ages and sexuality. 80% of us will be infected by HPV at some during our lives, in the majority of cases the infection won’t do the body any harm and it will go away. As more and more people get vaccinated, the chances of the viruses passing between sexual partners reduces, so everyone benefits from what is known as “herd immunity”. Women of all ages can opt into an HPV vaccine to protect themselves – many high street pharmacists and travel clinics offer the vaccine at a reasonable price and it’s certainly worth it. It’s really important to remember that even if you have had an HPV vaccine, your regular smear tests are still important.