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News digest – diagnosis delays, cervical cancer deaths, ‘what is cancer?’, and… mobile phones?

by Michael Walsh | Analysis

23 December 2017

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Mobile phone
  • GPs say that more than 1 in 5 cancer patients in England may experience avoidable delays in diagnosis, reports the Independent. The data come from GP surgeries and hospitals and map out the way more than 17,000 cancer patients were diagnosed in England in 2014. The Mail Online and Mirror also had this story, and we blogged about the implications.
  • This backs up a BBC News report that the UK’s medical profession is at a “crunch point”. The General Medical Council says there are too few doctors to keep up with demand, pointing to issues around Brexit and training. They said that with an ageing population, it’s a crucial moment for UK healthcare, which is why we’ve been campaigning about staff shortages.
  • What is cancer? was the UK’s most googled health question this year, according to BBC News. 2017 also saw the launch of our Science Surgery series, which answers your cancer queries – why not drop us a line and your question could feature next year.
  • And the related ‘where does cancer come from?’ was the subject of the latest in an interesting Guardian opinion series. A cancer doctor discusses how knowing a bit more about the causes of cancer could have a big impact.
  • Cervical cancer diagnoses and deaths in women over 50 in England are predicted to rise in the next 20 years, reports the Guardian. This is from a new study that predicts that the human papillomavirus (HPV) jab will significantly cut cases of the disease in younger women and girls who have been vaccinated. Girls aged 11-13 are offered the vaccination in the UK. The jab doesn’t protect against all forms of HPV though, so cervical screening is still important for all women.
  • Cancer survivors age faster than those who haven’t had the disease, reports Huffington Post. An evidence review found that some of this can be traced back to side effects of treatment – when chemotherapy and radiotherapy damage cancer cells they also damage normal tissue. More people are surviving cancer than ever before, but we must do more to ensure cancer survivors have a good quality of life.
  • How advances in medicine and technology are increasing our understanding of our genome is the subject of a BBC feature. It’s hoped that this understanding will lead to better treatments and ways to prevent many diseases.

And finally

  • ‘Don’t sleep with mobile phone next to your head or in your bed’, says The Express. This follows precautionary advice from the California Department of Public Health for people who want to reduce exposure to signals that mobile phones give off, due to a concern they could increase the risk of brain tumours. But this is very unlikely from the evidence available so far. If mobile phones did increase the risk of brain tumours, more and more people would now be developing them. But there hasn’t been an increase in brain tumour rates to match the massive increase in mobile phone use. But as mobile phones are still a fairly new technology research is continuing to check for any effects over time.