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News digest – hot tea, cancer doctor shortages, junk food ad ban proposals and baby Grady  

by Katie Roberts | Analysis

23 March 2019

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Image of baby monkey, Grady, at 2 weeks old.
Grady at 2 weeks old.

Hot tea headlines miss crucial details

Hot drinks hit the headlines this week after a study sparked claims that hot tea ‘doubles the risk of oesophageal cancer’. While the finding that drinking very hot drinks may raise the risk of oesophageal cancer isn’t new, the headlines left out crucial details – the main one being that the study looked at people in Iran who drank tea at or above 60C, which is likely to be a lot hotter than most people’s brews. Our blog post looks behind the headlines.

Shortage of cancer doctors ‘will impact patients’

New figures from the Royal College of Radiologists point to a growing shortage of cancer specialists across the UK. BBC News covered the report, which found that 1 in 6 cancer centres are now operating with fewer clinical oncologists than 5 years ago. Our news report has a breakdown of the latest figures.

BBC Wales also covered the figures, which showed that only 3 new cancer doctors had joined the NHS in Wales in the last 5 years, while cancer rates continue to rise.

NHS can’t train enough staff to fill shortages

NHS staff shortages can’t be overcome simply by training more doctors and nurses, claims a new report. The Mail Online covered the latest findings, which predict that GP shortages will triple in the next five years. The report by three health thinktanks warns that radical changes are needed to relieve the staffing crisis, including bring more physiotherapists into general practice.

Government proposes junk food adverts watershed

Many news outlets, including Sky News, ITV News and The Times (£), covered the Government’s proposal to ban junk food adverts on TV and online before 9pm. A public consultation has been launched on the proposal, which aims to tackle childhood obesity in the UK. Our news report has the story.

Breast cancer death rate still falling

The Guardian covered the good news that breast cancer death rates in 2019 are predicted to fall across nearly all EU countries, with the UK expected to see the biggest drop. Experts have linked this trend to advances in early detection and treatment of the disease and the introduction of breast screening. Our news report has the latest.

Targeted lymphoma drug approved for NHS patients in England

A targeted drug will now be available for some patients with skin lymphoma in England, after it was approved for NHS use. The drug, called brentuximab vedotin, will now be an option for patients whose cancer has come back or got worse after one round of treatment, after it was found to stop the disease getting worse. Read our news report for the details.

Health secretary calls for debate about ethics of genomics

Health Secretary Matt Hancock made a speech to the Royal Society about tackling the ethical questions about genomic testing and research. He also announced he had taken a genetic test that revealed he was at an ‘increased risk of prostate cancer’. But this was widely criticised by experts, who noted that the genetic test doesn’t indicate he is at high risk. They also criticised his mention of attending screening appointments, as there is no national screening programme for prostate cancer in the UK. The Guardian and the Telegraph have more.

Precision pancreatic cancer study recruits 100th patient

A study that aims to match patients with pancreatic cancer to more targeted treatments has recruited its 100th patient, reports the Aberdeen Express. The project, called Precision-Panc, aims to read the DNA of pancreatic tumours to help get patients onto more targeted clinical trials. It’s funded by Cancer Research UK and led by researchers at the University of Glasgow.

Inside Health takes a look at e-cigarettes

The BBC Radio 4 programme Inside Health took a look at e-cigarettes this week, inviting Professor Marcus Munafo from the University of Bristol to discuss the ongoing debate among public health experts and the health community about the devices. Discussion starts at 1.00-minute in.

NHS cervical screening brought in house following invite blunder

The NHS cervical screening service will be brought back in house in June. The contract had been outsourced to a company called Capita, but NHS England’s chief executive expressed disappointment in the way it has been performing after more than 40,000 women weren’t sent the appropriate screening information. The Guardian has this one.

Planned lab closures could delay cervical screening results

A combination of planned lab closures and a surge in women attending cervical screening could mean women wait months for their results, reports the Independent. Screening letters currently advise that results will be sent within 14 days.

DIY cervical screening kits piloted in London

Some women in north and east London will be offered self-sampling kits in a bid to boost the number of people taking part in cervical screening. The pilot will run from September and will include more than 22,000 women. The Guardian and The Sun have the latest.

Tips to avoid cervical screening anxiety

The Guardian shared some tips to help reduce anxiety around cervical screening, from asking for a smaller speculum to singing Frozen hits.

And finally

The birth of a baby monkey called Grady made headline news this week. While every new birth is a cause for celebration, this one was particularly special. Grady was born from an embryo fertilised using sperm that developed from frozen samples of testicles taken before her father had started puberty. Experts hope that the same approach could be used to retain fertility in boys treated for cancer before puberty, as treatments typically damage undeveloped testes.