GP and author Dr Ellie Cannon is our resident expert on all things health. Here are her 3 top stories for this week
1. It’s Blood Cancer Awareness Month
The autumn array of health awareness campaigns has started fervently but one will certainly be unfamiliar to many. Despite our ever improving health knowledge, we talk very little about blood cancer and yet within one month 2500 people in the UK will be diagnosed with one. September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month with charities aiming to educate the public about all the types of blood cancer which now together are the third most common cause of cancer deaths in the UK, killing 1000 people each month. Blood cancer includes all types of leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma and the treatment for many will be a stem cell donor (a bone marrow transplant). Like all transplants, a donor and a recipient have to match but only 1 in 3 sufferers will find a donor within their family. This means that the other 2 in 3 will rely on a stranger to save their life with a matching transplant. Many healthy adults can become stem cell donors: nowadays most stem cell donations involve a process which is similar to giving blood. After a course of injections, a donor will donate cells via a blood collection, just like blood donors although the process can take up to 5 hours. To find out if you could be a donor visit dkms.org.uk.
2. No amount of alcohol is safe
You’d be forgiven for not having any idea what the weekly alcohol limit is supposed to be for women as the rules and guidelines for safe limits seems to change every season. Whether or not alcohol consumption at a small level is in fact good for your health, has been the subject of debate in recent years as there is thought to be a protective effect from drinking a glass or two of wine in terms of heart health. But the latest research once again contradicts that and proclaims that no amount of alcohol is ‘safe’. And it’s good quality, credible research – with a very frank clear message from the medical journal The Lancet. The review in August 2018 definitively proclaims that alcohol is a massive global health issue; any benefit individuals may get from a glass of wine does not register as valuable, as they are outweighed by much bigger harms such as the increased risk of cancer. So it’s not good news for any of us but probably not a huge surprise if we are being realistic. Most things in life come with risks and benefits and alcohol is no different: like all good things in life, it should be enjoyed in moderation just sadly no longer with any posturing that it is for your health.
3. The NHS needs nurses
The NHS is undertaking its biggest recruitment drive in its 70 years hoping to encourage more people to enter nursing. Nurses topped a public poll as the most trusted and respected profession in the UK – three quarters of those surveyed chose nurses and doctors as professions they trust the most and seven in ten people said they were some of the most important roles in society. But interestingly, the majority of those surveyed did not know the wide range of careers available for nurses such as mental health nursing, and community nursing visiting patients at home: the skills and opportunities available in 21stcentury nursing are far different to nurses from times gone by – nurses now diagnose, manage community teams and in fact in some cases hospitals. Our NHS nurses are talented and dedicated but there is a worsening shortage within the sector which this employment drive is hoping to reverse. The campaign aims to increase the total number of applications into the NHS by 22,000 as well as double the numbers of nurses returning to practice and improve retention of staff in all sectors. It will recognise the incredible contribution and impact of NHS staff who treat over one million patients every 24 hours across the country in GP surgeries, hospitals and at home.