Author Archives: janschaefer

Health

Everything you should know for World Cancer Day

It is estimated that 1 in 2 people will get some form of cancer during their lifetime, which means that all of us are likely to, in some way, be affected by the disease. Thankfully, breakthroughs in medicine are happening everyday, improving survival rates across the world. These, from medical travel specialists Medigo, are the key things you should bear in mind:

Minimising risks
Everyday, doctors and scientists around the world are discovering more about the human body and the diseases that affect it. For example, we now know that there are certain lifestyle choices that can increase our risks of developing cancer. While genes also play a significant role, not smoking, leading an active lifestyle and eating a well-balanced diet have all been found to decrease our risks of developing the disease.

Improvements in survival rates
Cancer survival rates have been improving steadily for about thirty years, albeit unevenly among different forms of cancer. In the UK, for example, cancer survival rates have doubled since the 70s, largely because of wider access to screening tests, new treatments, and better awareness of a range of health risks such as smoking and obesity.

Some examples of screening tests include widespread breast screening for women, catching breast cancer in its early stages. Cancer Research UK states that 78% of those who experience breast cancer survive for 10 or more years after treatment, and the overall survival rates for the disease has doubled in the past forty years. Colonoscopies have a dual-benefit of also identifying early-stage colorectal cancer and even avoiding cancer altogether by identifying pre-cancerous growths called polyps.

Preventive measures include the HPV vaccine, which has been revolutionary for cervical cancer, and even proper food preparation, which has been shown to remove bacteria that can increase the likelihood of stomach cancer.

Treatment methods available
There are over 200 forms of cancer, and each patient has different circumstances, so treatments methods are always tailored to a patient’s individual needs. The most common cancer treatments are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. And these well-known methods are now joined by newer treatments like immunotherapy and targeted therapies.

As scientists continue to make progress against cancer, side effects from treatments become more manageable. And when a patient doesn’t react positively to one course of treatment treatment, there are now many other treatment options available for patients to keep cancer at bay.

 

Dr Jan Schaefer is Chief Medical Officer at Medigo, the leading booking platform for safe medical travel.

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Health

Prostate cancer: What you need to know

What is prostate cancer?

Only men can be affected by prostate cancer, as only men have a prostate gland. The prostate gland is essential in the making of semen and increases in size as men age. Prostate cancer happens when certain cells within the prostate start to grow and divide in an uncontrolled way. While it can be a slow-growing cancer, some forms of prostate cancer can spread to other parts of the body and require immediate medical treatment.

What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?

The earliest sign of prostate cancer is usually a problem with urinating, either in the form of needing to urinate more frequently, especially at night, or having an inconsistent flow when urinating. It is important to note that this might not necessarily be a sign of cancer, as with age, the prostate becomes enlarged and can result in the above anyway.

Other symptoms of prostate cancer can include lower back pain or rectal pain or discomfort, as well as difficulties relating to sex, such as blood in the semen, pain when ejaculating or erectile dysfunction.

How can you check yourself?

As mentioned above, some of the early symptoms of prostate cancer are the same as those of an enlarged prostate. However, if you find that you are displaying a number of the above symptoms over a period of time, then definitely make an appointment with your GP to discuss these.

Additionally, once you reach the age of 55, it is a good idea to be mindful of your health and attend your annual checkups, which will include a prostate exam and are essential for spotting any abnormalities early and receiving timely treatment. One in seven men will get prostate cancer, so keep an eye out for any unusual changes and listen to your body.

What are the treatment options?

For prostate cancer, treatment options can vary from patient to patient, depending on the stage of the cancer. The most common surgical procedure is a prostatectomy, but it can have a big impact on a man’s life, as men can become impotent or suffer from incontinence following the surgery.

Other treatment options include radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy or high-intensity focused ultrasound. Each of the options can its pros and cons, so you should sit down with your doctor and discuss each option in detail, to choose one that will be most effective and suitable to you.

Where can you get treatment?

From looking at our own data at Medigo, most patients suffering from prostate cancer remain in the UK for treatment, as there are virtually no delays in the NHS providing treatments for the condition. However, for those patients that do choose to travel abroad for treatment, German hospitals are renowned for  having considerable expertise in oncology.

See also: Why breast cancer is something men should know about too

Dr Jan Schaefer is Chief Medical Officer at Medigo, the leading booking platform for safe medical travel.

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Health

Why breast cancer is something men should know about too

While women are significantly more likely to suffer from breast cancer, it is an issue that can affect men as well. In fact, men have a 1 in 1,000 chance of getting breast cancer and, while the risks are significantly higher for women, men should also be aware of any potential warning signs:

Is breast cancer a concern for men?

While women are 100 times more likely than men to get breast cancer, it is still important that men are aware of the condition. Sadly, the main concern for men is lack of awareness and therefore, late diagnosis. In cases of male breast cancer, once the condition is diagnosed, 30-40% of the time it is at a III or IV stage. At my company Medigo,  a handful of the 80,000 patients we have helped were men with breast cancer and, unfortunately, all of them were already at a late stage, which supports the fact that there is a lack of awareness, not just amongst men but amongst their partners and caregivers too.

Risk factors

Not much research has been done into the causes of male breast cancer, as the chances of men having it are so much smaller. However, there are a number of factors that might increase the risk in men.

First of all, family history and genetics have a role to play. Men whose relatives had breast cancer are more susceptible to developing the disease in later years – especially in their 60s and 70s. Other known factors include radiation exposure and increased levels of, or exposure to, estrogen. Estrogen in men could be increased through medication, obesity and liver disease. Additionally, alcoholism has been found to have links with breast cancer in men.

What to look out for

Given the fact that the male breast is typically smaller than a woman’s, this makes spotting any symptoms easier, which is why it is essential that men know exactly what to look out for, to catch the condition early and get the required treatment.

First of all, it is important to know how to check yourself for any early signs of breast cancer. Whenever you have the opportunity, whether in the shower or just before bed, press your fingers flat against your chest (right hand for the left pectoral, and left hand for the right) and move your fingers in a clockwise motion. Check the entire area, starting from the outside and moving towards the nipple, looking out for any unusual bumps or lumps. An unusual lump is typically hard, not painful and doesn’t move around.

Once you’ve done this, check your nipples, looking out for any unusual discharge by gently squeezing each one in turn. You should also check for visual signs, such as the nipple turning inwards, a sore or rash around the nipple, or the surrounding skin becoming hard, red or blistered.

Lastly, you should also check your armpit for any unusual bumps, which can indicate swollen glands.

When to see your doctor

The chances of men developing breast cancer are very low; however, if during a routine self-check you find any warning signs, like lumps, unusual discharge, rashes, or puckering of the skin, make sure to visit your doctor. If you and your family have a history of breast cancer, make sure to mention this during your visit, along with any of the symptoms that you are experiencing.

 

Dr Jan Schaefer is Chief Medical Officer at Medigo, the leading booking platform for safe medical travel.

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