Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Reconstructing lives with reconstructive surgery

It is almost impossible to turn on the TV these days without finding a programme on plastic surgery.  Breast enlargement and reduction are often featured and it seems that everyone from celebrities to the woman on the street are considering some form of breast surgery. 

Losing a breast is to cancer, however, is a devastating loss to a woman on top of the shock of learning that she has the disease. The thought that breast reconstruction might be able to restore a breast is a beacon of hope in what can otherwise seem a bleak landscape.  Surprisingly however, only 50% of women who could have breast reconstruction actually go on to have the surgery.  This may be because, until now, breast reconstruction has not been straightforward and often multiple operations have been needed.
Through Raft’s groundbreaking research programme, our scientists are now close to a breakthrough that will transform breast reconstruction surgery for women all over the world. The Life After Breast Cancer Fund has raised £2 million in funding for two research projects and those research projects are aiming high, with reliable surgical procedures due to be delivered within the next 2 years. 
Millions of pounds are spent on research into breast cancer treatment every year but we believe that RAFT is the only organisation that is researching techniques that will improve breast reconstruction surgery. We know that for women who have undergone lumpectomy and mastectomy their journey will not end when their treatment finishes. In many cases, this is just beginning of their struggle.
Soon, however, it will be possible for women to have breast reconstruction surgery that will rebuild the shape, appearance and the natural feel that they want, without extensive surgery and uncertainty about the results. 
At Raft we know that a diagnosis of breast cancer is devastating especially in a younger woman who may have more pronounced body image issues.  The thought of never being able to comfortably wear a halter-neck dress or bikini can seem like another cruel blow on top of the diagnosis.   That is why we at Raft have worked hard to offer viable reconstructive breast surgery, so that women who have had breast cancer can concentrate on rebuilding their lives, not their bodies.

 RAFT - keeping you healthier in your world

Life After Breast Cancer - An Improving Picture

Despite the advances there have been in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, hearing that you have the disease is a body blow.  Apart from the fact that breasts arguably are a significant part of being a woman, breast cancer still claims thousands of lives every year.  While a lot of money and time is devoted to find a cure for the disease, even for those who survive there can be a further mountain to climb as they come to terms with the loss of a breast or even both breasts.  The relief of being free of disease can minimise this loss but eventually every woman who has lost a breast will be faced with the question of what they are going to do in terms of restoring the look of their body to what it was before they had surgery.
‘Free-flap’ transfers can offer a patient an alternative to artificial breast implants. During surgery, a section of tissue (fat and skin), along with blood vessels, will be transferred from another part of the body to the site of the mastectomy. The blood vessels in the transferred tissue will then be joined to blood vessels at the site using intricate microsurgery.  This will re-establish blood flow, and by doing so will enable the transplanted tissue to survive at the new site.
As with any surgery there can be complications.  ‘Free-flap’ transfer complications can include a loss of tissue, necrosis (cell failure), delayed wound healing and congestion of the veins. All of these complications will be directly related to an inadequate blood flow and can lead to repeat operations, prolonged recovery, pain, and scarring – and of course a huge emotional impact on the patient.  Unfortunately at the present time, one in ten ‘free flap’ transfers, fail.
RAFT’s Dr Anita Mohan is working in collaboration with Professor Michel St-Cyr, a Professor of Plastic Surgery and a world authority on vascular supply in free flap transfer at the Mayo Clinic, USA.
The Raft research into vascular supply uses real-time imaging techniques so that only the most high-quality vascularised tissue is used in the ‘free-flap’ transfer, increasing the chances of tissue survival.
RAFT are also developing a technique to boost vascularity even before the transferred tissue is transplanted to the mastectomy area – that will further increase the blood flow to ensure the best possible chance of a successful outcome for the patient. This research programme is progressing fast and we anticipate that our new surgical techniques for breast reconstruction could be benefiting women from as early as 2017.

RAFT – keeping you healthier in your world.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Italian Health and Wellness in a Family Setting

Bolero Holidays, within the Union Lido site, is a British concern run for the last 30 plus years in Italy by John Robinson and his wife, Margaret.

This was a second visit to Bolero and a month earlier than my last visit.  This gave me the experience of life at Bolero with more families for neighbours and despite the fact that I am not used to children, the experience was a good one.  The site was a lot fuller but still offered a very pleasant experience with a Venetian choir visiting one evening.

 Bolero offers accommodation in mobile homes and in caravans on a site that can only be described as spectacular. If you have never experienced a mobile home holiday, finding out about the home itself is going to be your first port of call. Firstly, forget everything you think you might know about a mobile home holiday. Mobile homes are like luxury bungalows or ground level apartments. They have double and single bedrooms, lounge areas, kitchens, and bathrooms and have excellent climate control depending on which time of the year you holiday abroad. We were as comfortable in Bolero’s mobile home as anywhere I have ever stayed and John’s inspired design to make the walk in shower big enough for two was a real bonus!  Not content with the luxury offered, John is about to introduce 9 new units that offer even more spacious and luxurious living in time for next season.  You can visit the Bolero website to see what one of the new super vans will ok like.

The site occupies 2 km on its own private beach on the Adriatic. It is heavily wooded affording privacy and shelter from the fierce heat of the sun in the summer. Although it can accommodate 11,200 people at capacity it would never feel that way. In fact it has the feel of a small holiday village with many different restaurants to choose from, a beach bar and a pizza take away, newsagents, pharmacies, shops, camping supply outlets, cocktail bars and even an optician! Two doctors live on site during the high season, and according to our hosts John and Margaret they are always quick to respond to any call for assistance.

Apart from the immaculately kept nature of the site the swimming pools including a wave pool and even the beach are equally well kept. The beach has sun loungers and umbrellas to rent for 14 euros.  Lifeguards service any swimming area and then there is the Wellness Centre! The Wellness Centre on the site is the closest thing to heaven I have ever encountered and I could not wait to revisit it.  It consists of 9 mineral baths all cocooning the bather in bubbles and strong jets to ease away the tensions of life. The idea is to work your way through Jacuzzi style large and small baths with differing salt contents ending with a Japanese hot foot bath (40 degrees centigrade) which involves walking over pebbles in a hot then a cold bath. All make you feel marvellous and pampered and the Sauna and Steam room with their accompanying ‘tropical forest’ shower offers along with the tropical rain forest affect, a ‘tropical fog’ setting. The Wellness centre is for adults only apart from a Tuesday and I would challenge anyone to find a more relaxing or rejuvenating experience. Beautiful wood decking with really comfortable sun-loungers beside an infinity pool and even a couple of four posters on the upper deck invite the Wellness Centre guest to wile away the day floating between the baths and the sun-beds.  Other beautifying and edifying treatments are available there with massage and beauty treatments. You can check into the centre for 2 hours at a cost of about 8 euros and around 16 euros will buy you a whole day of luxury. And it really is luxurious, a real five star experience. It sits above the children’s pool and the infinity pool looks out over the beach.

The information centre on site can help by selling you tickets to Venice by bus and ferry or even to the railway station at Venice Mestre via the town of Jesolo.

This is by far the best camping experience you will ever have whether you rent a mobile home or take your own van or tent.  Happy Camping!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Cataracts and cataract surgery - What you need to know.

Cataracts, and cataract surgery – What you need to know.
What are cataracts?
In fact there are several forms of cataracts and the identification of the different types depends largely on where the opacity is in the lens. Some cataracts develop very slowly, with vision reducing gradually over some years.  Other cataracts will progress faster, sometimes becoming operable in a few months or even weeks.  
The Nuclear cataract
This cataract is most commonly experienced, as we get older.  As we age the lenses in our eyes start to change with a yellowing seen deep in the central nucleus
of the lens that will eventually darken to a brown colour.  The stage of a developing cataract where brown is observed in the lens is called brunescence. This type of cataract will lead to a progressive reduction in the ability to see clearly and may make sufferers see colours tinged with yellow.
The Cortical cataract
A cortical cataract is categorised by white, spoke-like cloudiness observed in the cortex of the lens –the area that surrounds the nucleus.  A cortical cataract will typically begin peripherally and then gradually progress towards the centre of the field of vision.
The Sub capsular cataract
The sub capsular cataract will appear behind the lens and is often flagged up initially by experiencing a glare around bright lights.  Typically sufferers might report a problem with a glare from oncoming headlights.  The condition will eventually progress to a general reduction in vision. The sub-capsular cataract is often found in patents who suffer with diabetes or in patients who are taking steroids in high doses.
How likely is it that I will develop cataracts?
In the UK, over 50% of people who are over 65 years of age are likely to develop some degree of age-related cataracts and for those aged over 85 the percentage rises to 70%.  Although those in the higher age groups are far more likely to get cataracts younger people and babies can also be affected where the condition is known as congenital or childhood cataracts.
As far as gender difference is concerned, cataracts do occur slightly more commonly in women than men. Ethnic background can also be a factor with the age at which cataracts occur being lower in patients from the Indian sub continent.
Considered a relatively minor problem that is easily dealt with in the West, globally cataracts are the number one cause of avoidable blindness. Over fifty per cent of all blindness in the world can be attributed to cataracts and this is a World Health Organisation priority, worldwide.
What is the treatment for Cataracts?
The only way to deal with a cataract is to remove it during cataract surgery.  The surgery will remove the central nucleus of the eye and the lens cortex.  With the removal of the natural lens any opacity, wherever it occurs, will be removed with the extraction of the lens.  
Once the nucleus and surrounding cortex has been removed, the clear surrounding bag of the lens (the capsule) will be left behind. An intraocular lens (IOL) implant will then be placed into the capsule.
The power of the IOL will be calculated so that the patient will have clear distance vision. The lens can also be provided for reading and intermediate vision with a multifocal IOL. Additionally the bifocal and even trifocal IOL options are becoming a popular choice for patients having cataract surgery. 

Can I reduce my chance of developing cataracts by eating well?

Can I reduce my chance of developing cataracts by eating well?
Cataracts often form as we get older and are the major cause of blindness globally.  The only way to deal with a cataract is to remove the clouded lens and replace it with an intraocular lens (IOL) during cataract surgery.
While the precise reason that cataracts form is unclear, experts have concluded that oxidative stress will damage certain enzymes and proteins that are in the eye's natural lens, which will lead to the lens becoming cloudy.
The research has not produced any conclusive results, but eating a healthy diet that is antioxidant rich and includes certain vitamins has, in several studies, been highlighted as indicating a reduced risk of developing cataracts or in those cataracts progressing.
Cataracts, Diet and Oxidative Stress
Oxidative stress will occur when damaging free radicals that roam the body and the antioxidants that keep them in check are out of kilter. Free radicals are atoms or molecules that react with other atoms and molecules because their electrons are unpaired.  
Eating Well for Optimum Eye Health

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables might reduce your risk of cataracts later in life. The free radicals mentioned earlier will damage the body by stealing electrons from healthy cells of tissues and organs. This process is called oxidation.
Oxidation in the eye affects proteins and fats in the lens, damaging and clouding the lens - a cataract is created. Preventing damage from free radicals by eating healthy foods, concentrating on those that contain antioxidants, is thought likely to slow this process down.
The free radicals that cause damage to our eyes and to the rest of our bodies commonly arise from:
·      Eating unhealthy foods
·      Exposure to pollution or chemicals
·      Smoking
·      Ultraviolet light
Some free radicals, however, will occur from regular daily metabolism, meaning that even people without specific risk factors need the antioxidants that are found in healthy foods.
Which Healthy Foods Prevent Cataracts?
Those who consistently eat a healthy diet will include colourful fruits, vegetables and helpings of whole grains.  There is some evidence that this might result in a decreased risk of cataracts. Antioxidant vitamins and phytochemicals that are found in possible cataract reducing fruits and vegetables will also include A, C and E as well as zeaxanthin and lutein.
Eating fish that has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids has also has been linked to the potential for reduced risk of cataract development or progression.
A great source of information on this subject and eye health in general can be found at

Saturday, January 24, 2015

UK Health Radio - Medical News Update on the Hour - Gracie on Puberty in Girls

UK Health Radio - Medical News Update on the Hour

Puberty - Girls

Puberty is when a girl grows up into a young woman. Every girl goes through it. 

People say you start changing when you’re 10, but it happens to some girls earlier than this and to others a bit later. The most usual age is between 8-13. Your body starts when it’s ready.

Don't worry if you put on a bit of weight, as your body needs it as an energy store before it can cope with the changes. It’s not bad for you.

You might be the same age as your friend, but it doesn't mean that you'll grow at the same time. Everybody starts at different times.

Here's a list of growing up changes in the order they normally happen. It doesn't matter if the order is different to you.

You'll get taller, broader and heavier, Your boobs start to grow bigger, Your face gets longer, Your pubic hair starts to grow, Hair grows under your arms, You sweat more, skin and hair get greasier, your sex organs develop and then your periods start.

It can take up to 3 1/2 years from the very first changes of puberty to starting your periods.

Some girls get an ache in their tummy at the start of a period. Doing exercise often helps. If the pain is too bad then you could try a hot water bottle.

Gracie Timms
UK Health Radio - Medical News Update on the Hour
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UK Health Radio – Medical News Update on the Hour - New Device to Control High Blood Pressure

UK Health Radio – Medical News Update on the Hour

An interesting report from the BBC has revealed that a device the size of a paper clip inserted in the groin has shown promising results in lowering blood pressure, scientists say.
In a study of 83 patients, published in The Lancet, those who received the device experienced an immediate reduction in blood pressure. But one-third also developed swelling in their leg that needed treatment.
High blood pressure affects one in three adults in the UK, with around 5% of this group suffering from resistant hypertension, which does not respond to medication. It is dangerous because it causes strain on the vessels carrying blood around the body.
This can cause vessels to become clogged up or to weaken, which can cause damage to the heart or brain. High blood pressure also increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney damage and eye problems.
The device, called a coupler creates a chamber between the artery and vein in the upper thigh which appears to help lower resistance and bring blood pressure down.
Researchers at Queen Mary University of London, which led the study, tested the device on 42 patients with high blood pressure that had not responded to at least three types of drug treatment.
They compared the effects with 35 patients who were given the standard medical treatment for uncontrolled high blood pressure.
For patients in this group, there were fewer hypertensive complications and fewer hospital admissions for high blood pressure emergencies and those with the coupler inserted were also able to reduce their medication.
However, there were some side-effects. In around 29% of patients, swelling developed in the leg in which the coupler was inserted that was simply treated with a stent and was probably due to turbulence caused by the device in the thigh.
Lead author Dr Melvin Lobo acknowledged there was more to learn about the device. "We need more research to explore the long-term effects of the coupler, better understand its safety and understand more about how it works within the body. We must find better means of treating high blood pressure as drugs do not work for everyone and the coupler is a big step forward in our search for alternative treatment."
Prof Tom MacDonald, president of the British Hypertension Society, and professor of clinical pharmacology at the University of Dundee, said the device could be "a fantastic thing for patients. It's another potentially great advance in the treatment of hypertension. It's not without its problems, but the beauty of it is you can reverse it, and it can be given to people on top of hypertension medication. We now need more rigorously controlled studies and a definitive trial before it can be funded for the NHS."
Amanda Thomas
UK Health Radio – Medical News Update on the Hour
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