Neuro-Genesis how our brains can refresh post-cancer

Sometimes one despairs. Sometimes you just feel blue.  And sometimes brain science comes up with information to make oncologists, GPs, well being counsellors and any of us either living with or with someone we love, post cancer –  sit up and take real notice.  In fact not just sit up but stand up and shout Oh Yeah! now that is what I am talking about.

Many people who have undertaken their  heroic fight facing down cancer, still have to endure a daily struggle with depression, general malaise, a less than chirpy brain alongside irritating memory loss.  And why this is the case is now laid bare in an important  TED talk by neurological specialist Sandrine Thuret – she tells her enthralled audience that brain image

a) our brains have the ability to GROW – yes grow bright, and sparkly fresh brain neurons located in our Hippocampus ( the part of our brain where memory and mood setting optimism/ or depression lurks)  up to 700 new neurons a day at maximum refresh capacity

b) that these new, shiny neurons, have the capacity to enable us to feel flourishing and work in a positive way against the negative effects to ageing

c) that many post cancer treatments – aimed to block the growth of cancerous cells in the kissing and happybody  (Hoorah!) ALSO can block the production of our new singing and dancing neurons – (oh NO!) and this can be a major factor why men and women recovering from cancer, when the cancer cells are all dealt with can still be locked into a cycle of enduring depression. But all is not lost. You can revive the tired old post-op in long term recovery and remission you, and be kissed all over by your bright new neurons, which our wonderful brains have capacity to generate for us – how amazing is that. We need to adjust a couple of things in diet and exercise, dust down our tired libidos and REFRESH – and this is how.


NEURON refreshment – 4 essential things to do

First up – exercise. Vigorous exercise two or three times a week not only blasts into our cyclingsystem endorphins which flood our body and make us feel generally good and UP  –  and oxygenate our brains and give our hearts a good work out.  It also stimulates the production of new brain neurons in the hippocampus – directly addressing the negative effects on our brain of depleted neuron refreshment due to the cancer inhibiting medication many of us are on and are relying on for enhanced longevity.

Second Keep swallowing those Blueberries,blueberries in fact most purple based vegetables and fruits are high in the chemicals which help stimulate neuron regeneration – and help us get into our positive and best selves for action

Third keep your calorie control going and STEP up your Omega 3 oils intake (most oily fish mackerel_lemon-5-373x248are high in Omega 3 – check out your fish recipe books NOW as you want to stay away from processed foods, and the fat pan)

Fourth – good to know that high quality dark chocolate (in moderation) AND red wine (ditto!) are full of good things which assist with the stimulation and growth of our grump busting neurons.  An odd shot of caffeine doesn’t do any harm either apparently. (and don’t forget our sexual life when healthy, afeetinbedctive and loving, is a pick me up in so many different aspects for our well being we can’t begin to tell you how great that is – plus a tablet of good quality chocolate.

And that’s about it.  Good news – what we knew in part, but now all the more reason to adjust your diet, and get that much needed occasional vigorous exercise on board. Keep munching those blueberries – and enjoy the talk which you can access here – let us know how it goes – and tell us about your favourite TED talks and Vlogs to share on the way to great health and a full life post Cancer. (The great thing is these activities and interventions can also assist in limiting the intrusion of cancer in your life in the first instance, so great for all to take note of and build into our lives.)





Access here we

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Improving data on Breast Cancer incidence and early mortality

Breast cancer is the most common cancer amongst British and American women, except for skin cancers – with about 1 in 8 (12%) women in the US and a similar stepped up incidence in Britain due to our ageing population, who will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime.

Recently published estimates for breast cancer in the United States for 2015 are (From the American Breast Cancer Society )

  • About 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.
  • About 60,290 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
  • About 40,290 women will die from breast cancer in this coming year.

America is now seeing a decrease in morbidity and incidence of Breast Cancer since 2000, with a significant drop of  7% between 2002 to 2003. This large decrease was thought to be due to the decline in use of hormone therapy after menopause that occurred after the results of the Women’s Health Initiative were published in 2002 in the States. This controversial study linked the use of hormone therapy to an increased risk of breast cancer and heart diseases. In recent years, incidence rates have been stable in white women, but have increased slightly in African American women. There is similar concern in the UK as to the incidence of low and late reporting in the Black and Asian communities in the UK which requires attention.

UK figures up until 2012 which are on Breast Cancer Research’s pages note that:

  • 49,936 women and 349 men in the UK were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2011
  • There were 11,643 female and 73 male deaths from invasive breast cancer in the UK in 2012.
  • 78% of adult female invasive breast cancer patients diagnosed in 2010-2011 in England and Wales are now predicted to survive ten or more years.
  • 27% of breast cancer cases each year in the UK are linked to major lifestyle and other risk factors.

Next post we shall look at some of the initiatives to assist women addressing that lifestyle risk – and remember another life which was cut short too early due to this disease.

Remember test your breasts regularly (once a month is great) and report any concerning changes to your GP.

Eat well, exercise regularly and celebrate the joy of living.

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More Genetic code break throughs show 15 new ‘hotspots’ for Gene linked breast cancer risk.

Today’s blog comes courtesy of a press release from Cancer Research UK. We thought many of our followers would be interested in the following ‘hot spot research’ which raises some women’s likelihood of generating a breast tumour to one in four (due to 20 genetic variations carried by some women). Scientists working in Cambridge University, have discovered 15 previously unknown genetic ‘hot-spots’ that can increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer, and were previously getting under the radar, according to research published today in Nature Genetics. Continued work in this area will facilitate more precise genetic marking, and therefore enable a great deal more women to haveConsideration

safety procedures (more regular testing etc) in place to limit their risk of developing a malignant tumour undetected.

In a study funded by Cancer Research UK, scientists compared tiny variations in the genetic make-up of more than 120,000 women of European ancestry, with and without breast cancer, and identified 15 new variations – called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) – that are linked to a higher risk of the disease. This new discovery means that a total of more than 90 SNPs associated with breast cancer have now been revealed through research.

On average, one in every eight women in the UK will develop breast cancer at some stage in their lives. The researchers estimate that about one in twenty women have enough genetic variations to double their risk of developing breast cancer – giving them a risk of approximately one in four. A much smaller group of women, less than one in a hundred (0.7 per cent), have genetic variations that make them three times more likely to develop breast cancer, giving them a risk of around one in three. It’s hoped that these genetic markers can be used to help identify high-risk women and could lead to improved cancer screening and prevention.

Study author Profdnaessor Doug Easton, from the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge, said: “Our study is another step towards untangling the breast cancer puzzle. As well as giving us more information about how and why a higher breast cancer risk can be inherited, the genetic markers we found can help us to target screening and cancer prevention measures at those women who need them the most.

“The next bit of solving the puzzle involves research to understand more about how genetic variations work to increase a woman’s risk. And we’re sure there are more of these variations still to be discovered.”
Michailidou, K et al. Genome-wide association analysis of more than 120,000 individuals identifies 15 new susceptibility loci for breast cancer. Nat Gen; 9 March 2015

Adapted from a press release from Cancer Research UK – See more at:
– See more at:

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90 seconds to face your fear – take the survey

Facing our Fears
“Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
“I love running. I’m not into marathons, but I am into avoiding problems at an accelerated rate”
― Jarod Kintz, At even one penny, this book would be overpriced. In fact, free is too expensive, because you’d still waste time by reading it.
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”
― Marie Curie

Just 90 seconds

Only 90 seconds

Only 90 seconds

According to Neuro-Scientist and Neuro-Anatomist Jill Bolte Taylor, 90-seconds is the longest amount of time that an emotion can last in anyone’s body… unless we choose to hold onto it and stay fearful, angry, terrified after the initial 90 seconds of chemical/physiological response.
If we choose to let go of it and shut off fear, anxiety, anger – after 90 seconds we can start to enjoy our natural equilibrium – unless of course there are other neurological impediments which have been put in place by previous experiences. What is important to get hold of is that it is our choice “either consciously or unconsciously to rethink the thoughts that re-stimulates the circuit” according to Dr Taylor.

We can interrupt the cycle of fear and anxiety, which have built up in our circuitry – it is down to us. So here  are 90 seconds in which you can face your fear, stop running, and build some understanding.
Take the Survey

Here at one in nine, we’ve built a brief survey that takes only 90 seconds to complete. That’s right 90 seconds to address a fear – 90 seconds to help build some understanding – 90 seconds to assist you in thinking about your attitude and your practice around that name which when you fear it, increases the fear of the thing itself.
Stop running and take 90 seconds
Here is the link to the survey which could start to alter your behaviours, and help you to pay attention to the thing that you might be running away from at an accelerated rate. One in nine women will have to face the impact of Breast Cancer over the course of their life times – that’s right One in Nine – and reports are that in the United States and in the UK that could be increasing to one in eight.
So Take the Survey
90 seconds will help us build our understanding of what is happening with women world wide and their practice of self testing and building behaviours of early reporting of changes in their breasts. 90 seconds of your life could help prolong your life, and the lives of women that you love. Thank you for your time – face the fear and live your dreams.
I’m in – take me to the 90 second survey

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”
― Marie Curie

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Paralympics, amazonians and amputees – where does breast reconstruction fit in?

The UK and international audiences, both physically present and through the medium of television, radio and the internet will be turning up and tuning in for what is going to undoubtedly be the world’s largest ‘celebration’ and re positioning of attitudes around ‘disability’ tonight – Wednesday 29th August 2012.  We could well be witnessing the ‘tipping point’ on awareness around disability, and thoughtful re positioning on how people facing disability from birth or accrued along the way through life’s outrageous meting out of misfortune – be it terrorist attack, congenital illness, warfare, or work based or transport related accidents – are a full and complete part of human society.  The competition has been highlighted by Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson writes in today’s telegraph that

We are no doubt also going to see a change in the landscape of British sport. It always happens ….  It is going to be a tough new world out there once we no longer have ‘2012’ to talk about, especially for disability sport which has seriously benefited from a home Games.

We should expect (an) increase in people wanting to take part in disability sport, but the litmus test will be if local clubs can fulfil this demand. So far, I do not think mainstream sport has been put under too much pressure in the area of participation, but this could all change.

The danger would be governing bodies backing away from their integration plans now the incentive is not there. The test of the good governing bodies are the ones that will have taken personnel and athlete changes into account and create the most meaningful legacy of all – a change in sporting culture which includes disabled athletes.

Full integration of disability needs in the world of Elite and Local sporting opportunities is vital for the evolution of full integration and the change in a culture of full acceptance of the presence of a diverse world of human experience in which sport plays an important ‘showcasing’ and liberating role. The 2 million seats sold out at the Olympic Park shows that a major turning point has been reached at the London 2012 Paralympics in this dimension.

It got me thinking however. Do women who have endured mastectomies on their way through breast cancer interventions qualify in the category of amputee which is one of the five categories which are the gateways to Paralympic participation.  The formal Paralympic categories are  amputee, cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, wheelchair, visually impaired, and  athletes with disabilities which do not fall into the other five categories; these include achondroplasia, dwarfism, congenital disorders and multiple sclerosis.

If for instance a woman has had a full mastectomy and reconstruction work which has entailed either the harnessing of stomach muscle and tissue in a TRAM flap  or  through the exploitation of the latissimus dorsi one of the large muscles in the back, nestling under the shoulder blade, this is a significant medical intervention.  The work of the latissimus dorsi is to move the arm into one’s side and backwards. Other muscles around the shoulder also do the same job so it is not a hugely disabling intervention, but its potential impact in muscle morbidity in the back has been raised by various medical studies as not without significance.  The intervention is as my surgeon told me two years ago ‘not trivial but highly efficacious’. And indeed it has proved so.

Now this is all by way of wondering whether there is a place for post cancer major surgery survivors to participate in the Paralympics to enable those who would like to compete at elite level to do so with some hope of achieving success, after interventions which would in someway disturb their ability to participate with equality against others who had not endured this sort of intervention.  This is where the boundaries of health, ability, disability, and the obstacles people endure to participating with equality become really interesting and challenging.

With one in nine women facing a diagnosis of breast cancer somewhere along the pathway of their lives, some of whom will have to face radical mastectomy and reconstruction in the pathway back to health, and the nation wide ‘race for life’ having achieved tremendous profile for the need for regular exercise and awareness around the scourge of breast and indeed prostate cancer.  It is said that the ancient tribe of Ἀμαζόνες (Amazon women) which Herodotus reported in the vicinity of contemporary Ukraine, were warriors some of whom participated in the Trojan War – so a similar environment emerging to the origin of the Marathon in Sparta and the formation of the Olympic Games in Athens.  They were in popular etymology a-mazos without a left breast – supposedly so that they could be more effective in their archery and unencumbered in their deployment of the bow or in the hurling of spears.  The ‘A-mazonian’ element of the games  is a conversation which some of our large cancer charities might open up with the International Olympic Committee for the future, as the range, reach and influence of the Games continues.

Over 4 billion spectators tuned in at some point to the Olympics with an opening ceremony paying such a wonderful tribute to the work of the NHS, and many millions will be watching tonight as the Paralympics opens.  Everybody will be inspired by the feats achieved by participants in wheelchair rugby to Athletics to sitting volleyball – and wonder at the range of challenges which those competing have overcome.

Maybe there should be an explicit space for Cancer survivors who have worked through their surgery to compete again at elite level – and the opportunity to raise international awareness around the importance of self examination – as people’s personal stories of resilience and fortitude are rehearsed.  But in which Olympian dimension should this be?  Are we at the early day of flying a kite for another dimension of Olympian competition where survivors of heart surgery, cancer interventions, diabetes and indeed the morbidity of obesity can compete internationally and raise awareness of these major hazards for a flourishing and healthy life – and showcase hope for everybody the other side of major surgical intervention.

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Is it ever too young to self examine?

With only 20 of the 46,000 women in the United Kingdom under 25  diagnosed each year with Breast Cancer  is it simply a waste of time to train the next generation in breast care awareness? That was the question I had in mind when I went to talk to Women’s officers and welfare officers for the student body at Cambridge University on Monday evening.

When I went up to University 30 years ago, we had our obligatory sex talks on safe sex, the use of condoms, the importance of not destroying our prospects by falling pregnant or catching an STV whilst having hijinks and sexual experiences with the boys the other side of the high metal posts which marked the border between our women’s college and the impossible but potentially ‘dangerous’ world of the other!

Not a word though on the very real threat to our future well-being in the secret killer which could lurk in our breast tissue and emerge several years later and terminate all our focussed study, our determination to succeed in a ‘man’s world’ of business, politics, religion.

Breast Cancer belonged to the world of the beyond our times. The era of our Grandmothers, or at the very least of our mothers. Post menopausal women with bangs as capacious as shopping bags, and a life style to match. Not our young energetic, health conscious, vegetarian, bean eating, carciogene rejecting generation.

And yet within 20 years of leaving college, four of my contemporaries who were in my immediate circle of friends had succumbed to the killer – three of them had died – in their early forties – two with young children surviving them, one with a couple of publications as her on going memorial.

They mark the increasing impact of breast cancer as the years progress, and we move from our 20s into our 30s without noticing the tide of change around us or more important within us. Cells dividing, reproducing, endlessly writing our script of life and openness to the future. And within this seemingly endless reproduction, the seeds of destruction, where our cells become contaminated with a rogue script, unable to shut down and becoming the potential destroyer of all those obedient cells, just getting on and doing their habitual work of faithful replication.

The first indications of this rogue cell formation, an early tumour will normally be for us to locate. A small lump in the breast tissue palpable by our fingers, as we dress, or shower, or bathe or make love.  Or a dimpling or inversion of the nipple, or rippled skin over the surface of the breast tissue we note one day whilst dressing in front of a mirror, or our partner remarks on. Or some unkind emission from our nipple, mucky or bloody fluid forcing its way from a normally dry zone.

And we take ourselves to our doctor – worried, concerned, anxious, panicking, our life chasing itself in our minds eye, as we seek to keep calm with the receptionist, and sit quietly in the chair with our GP and have to admit that well no we havent been checking our breasts regularly – we thought there was NO need – well not until you know our bangs were as sumptuous as Katie Price’s or we had reached – touch wood not yet – the menopause.

By which time we could be sitting with a stage 2 or stage3 cancer, which has grown beyond its initial ‘safe housing’ of its original site of formation, learnt to replicate, metestasised and started to invade secondary organs with devestating effect.

None of my immediate colleagues at University ‘fell pregnant’ as my moral tutor deliciously phrased it, during my years at University. But three did die from stage 3 breast cancers discovered too late to do anything about them in their thirties and early forties. And the ongoing early termination of all their work, dedication, years of study and ongoing pioneering in business, politics, writing and religious spheres, juggling their parenting with their more public spheres of work – just might – we shall never know – have been avoided by regular self examination – undertaken and becoming a life time life saving habit – when at University.

So I have handed this piece of worldly wisdom onto my daughter’s generation so that the loss to Breast Cancer which will lock in one in eight women now in its potentially deadly embrace over the course of this generation’s life time, might have an improved prospect of flourishing, contributing, nurturing, and simply living into a ripe good age, averting the grip of Medicines oldest recorded disease.

A new organisation has been raised up in the last 18 months to raise awareness amongst the under 30s of the importance to self examine – and to take seriously the low but present risk of breast cancer in the cohort of young women in this age range. For more information on their work drop onto their site

Touch Look Check,  – self examine once a month, love your breasts, you will miss them if they are taken from you, keep them as your best friends for life, for love, for fun, for good.
Load up this link  onto your iphone, download onto your laptop – send friends links, facebook messages with alerts to keep aware, check regularly, report early and stay safe.
Become a life saving breast lover, and be part of the movement to save women’s lives from this most ancient of menaces.

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One in Eight! World Cancer Day and Breast Cancer risk in the UK

Today is World Cancer Day – and a sobering thought that across the globe, the World Health Organisation considers  84 million people at risk of dying from a cancer between 2005-2015 if further intervention and vaccinations are not developed. From the research desk of Cancer Research UK comes the chilling news that one in eight women are now deemed at risk of developing a Breast Cancer at some point over their lifetime – as opposed to the previous one in nine – eponymous to this blog.  The charity’s figures show that reported cases of breast cancer in the UK has increased by 3.5% in 10 years, from 42,400 in 1999 to 47,700 in 2008.

So what is going on?  Television and media reports have been replete with messages around obesity, alcohol misuse and indeed moderate alcohol consumption, lack of exercise and a variety of other ‘lifestyle’ issues which are contributing to the rise. Whilst wanting to support efforts of all women (and indeed men) in eating sensibly, exercising appropriately and taking care with their alcohol consumption, these are general health messages with powerful impacts on other major killers, including heart disease – which disease is also being noted to day in Wearing Red day . You would have thought that somebody somewhere would have noted that Cancer and Heart Disease day together might be something of a coronary and carcinogenic overload.

That apart what is going on with the perceived  rise in risk of Breast Cancer occurrence? Well just maybe the enhanced reporting procedures which have been cascaded down from Primary Care Trusts, (currently being collapsed) to General Practitioners with immediate referrals to specialist Breast Clinics up and down the country, might have something to do with it.

When I reported with a Breast lump to my GP last year – it was a matter of days, not weeks, which saw me being reviewed in a specialist breast clinic, a tumour diagnosed through ultra sound, mammogram and on the spot biopsy. Within a fortnight I was under the surgeon’s knife receiving my own part of the transformed services which are currently saving two out of three women’s lives for the next twenty years.

With the up-coming reforms into the National Health Service before Parliament at present it is essential that the clear gains in early detection (7 out of 10 reported breast tumours emerging from Women self-examining), reporting, diagnosis and efficient treatment continues. Furthermore that research into the internal causes of Breast Cancer (along with all the other Cancers which affect us) is properly ring fenced and focussed on enhancing early detection,  promoting potential cures, and alleviating the negative impacts of some of today’s current treatments – including chemotherapies and radiotherapy – through more targeted medication and effective intervention.

So a rise in the risk of Breast Cancer to one in eight women in the UK is potentially a promising statistic – it could be telling us that more women are being detected in the UK than previously, who up until the new regimen of GP referral to specialised clinics, fell through the net of staged mammograms and their doctor’s waiting room.  This week-end the best we can do to continue to drive down Breast Cancer deaths is to get a regular self examination culture embedded in ourselves, our work colleagues and friends, and out into the female population at large – (though each year a small percentage of men are diagnosed with cancers in their man-boobs, which should not be forgotten).  Breast Cancer Research has developed an excellent chart on self examination and things to be aware of in your breasts which I consider should be on every Jane’s room in the country. Yes in Motorway service stations, department stores, supermarket rest rooms and Libraries. It could quite literally save lives.

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