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A Guide to Decembeard

Posted Thursday 01 December 2016 14:03:38 by Tim Deakin in Smoking Cessation

decembeardFirst there was Movember, now Decembeard. Yes, it appears that all manner of facial hair is taking on one of the biggest killers – cancer. Raising awareness about the different types of cancer is a vital part of moving society towards both early diagnosis and, we hope, a cure.

As Decembeard is now upon us, we thought we’d explain this next facial hair frenzy, this time raising awareness for bowel cancer, and provide an essential guide to how you can get involved and why it is a cause worth fighting for.

About Decembeard

An initiative launched by Beating Bowel Cancer, a charity that provides practical and emotional help to everyone affected by bowel cancer, Decembeard encourages all who get involved to grow a beard during December to show their support and in turn raise awareness and funds. Bowel cancer is this country’s second largest cancer killer and someone loses their life to the disease every 30 minutes. The lack of awareness around the disease’s signs and symptoms means that unfortunately this statistic isn’t set to get any less shocking, but thanks to Beating Bowel Cancer and Decembeard everyone can do their part in turning this around.

Bowel cancer is diagnosed every 15 minutes in the UK, and if diagnosed at an early stage 9 out of 10 cases can be treated successfully. Growing a beard during Decembeard, or supporting someone who is, ensures that the message about bowel cancer symptoms can be spread further and the funds that are so essential to Beating Bowel Cancer as the UK’s only nurse-led specialist helpline for the disease can be raised.

Spotting bowel cancer

Seeking help or advice from a medical professional as early as possible is the key to treating most forms of cancer successfully, and the same is true with bowel cancer. Many of the symptoms associated with bowel cancer however are often written off as the signs of other, less serious ailments but if the following symptoms do persist for up to three weeks then seeing your GP is important.

Symptoms of bowel cancer include:

  • Bleeding from the anus
  • Blood present in stools
  • Changing bowel habits
  • Pain or discomfort in the abdomen
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Bloating
  • A lump in the tummy

Lowering your risk

According to the NHS, approximately 1 in 20 people in the UK will develop bowel cancer. High risk individuals include those over 60 years of age and individuals with a family history of the disease, however diets that are high in red or processed meat, obesity and high alcohol consumption have been linked to the development of bowel cancer. Choosing a diet that is high in fibre and low in red and processed meats, limiting alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight and increasing physical activity are just some of the ways to lower your risk of bowel cancer.

Smoking is also linked to many cancers, including bowel cancer, so taking steps towards a smoke-free, healthier lifestyle is highly recommended. At Express Pharmacy, we stock stop smoking treatment, Champix, a medication proven to increase the chances of quitting, relieve cravings and reduce the body’s dependency on nicotine.

Get involved

Getting involved in Decembeard couldn’t be easier, and a number of famous faces, including rugby legend Ben Cohen MBE, football legend George Cohen MBE, actor Stephen Mangan, SAS: Who Dares Wins stars Foxy and Ollie, and director Kay Mellor, are leading the way. Sign up to fundraise via the Decembeard website and access countless fundraising ideas, downloadable resources and inspirational real stories.

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How to Stay Healthy Over Christmas

Posted Thursday 01 December 2016 13:06:05 by Tim Deakin in Acid Reflux

As a nation we make no secret of the fact that most of us tend to overindulge during the winter months. Whether it’s the cooler weather that makes us reach for the comfort food or the sheer abundance of sweet treats that the season brings, each of us has our reasons for letting loose with the calories – and letting our belts out a notch as a result.

Of course, treating yourself to something naughty every now and again during the festive season is not going to harm our health a great deal. Yet for those who struggle with their weight or with food intolerances can find it to be a tricky time of year.

Away from food and drink there are also a number of other precautions you should take to ensure that this Christmas is a healthy one and not a horrible one.

Keep your alcohol consumption in mind

It may be the time to eat, drink and be merry but sustained drinking between Christmas and New Year can both increase your calorie intake dramatically and put additional strain on your organs. Our advice is to enjoy a drink within moderation but be sensible about the rate of consumption.

Avoid skipping meals as this will cause you to get drunk quicker and miss out on valuable nutrients. If you wish to avoid a fuzzy head in the morning, try to stick to one type of drink rather than mixing wine, beer and spirits. Opting for a lighter coloured drink where possible is helpful, as these tend to be lower in hangover-worsening chemical ingredients.

Whether you are drinking or not, staying hydrated over the Christmas period is also crucially important. Try to alternate between alcoholic drinks and soft drinks whenever possible. This simple step can help prevent hangovers from bringing a painful end to your merriment.

Always eat breakfast

While it can be tempting to skip breakfast on Christmas morning in favour of opening your presents, eating breakfast will not only set you up for the celebrations ahead but help prevent overeating later on in the day. A hearty yet healthy breakfast is advisable, with porridge the superstar in comparison to other options. Porridge will stabilise your blood sugar levels, while adding a dollop of yoghurt will boost immunity.

Reach for the remedies

This time of year can be hard on the stomach with alcohol and the overconsumption of food exacerbating acid reflux in particular. If you are particularly susceptible to this common problem, we stock medications such as Omeprazole, Lansoprazole and Losec at Express Pharmacy to help treat the condition and keep you feeling well this winter.

Cook your meat well

Giving your loved ones the unwanted gift of food poisoning is certainly something to avoid this December. Unfortunately, the festive season is a peak time for food poisoning, with an undercooked Christmas lunch acting as the catalyst for several strains of harmful bacteria and some very nasty side effects.

Exercising high standards of food safety this Christmas is vital to ensuring celebrations go off without a hitch. If you are purchasing a frozen bird as the centrepiece of your feast, allowing plenty of time for it to defrost is the place to start.

The rule of thumb for defrosting is to allow 12 hours per kilogram when defrosting in the fridge, and 7 hours per kilo when defrosting in a cool room. Once the bird has been properly defrosted, it must be cooked well. It is recommended that birds are roasted for 40 minutes per kilogram at 190oC. Always double check that your turkey is cooked correctly before serving, the easiest way to do this is to part the skin between the breast and leg, if this area is pink then further cooking is required. The juices from the turkey should also run clear rather than pink.

Travel carefully during bad weather

The roads are notoriously dangerous during the autumn and winter months, with snow, ice, rain and dazzling sunlight all heightening risk for drivers. If you have to set foot outside during the winter period – like getting to a Christmas party or family gathering, be sure to allow more time so that you can exercise caution on the road. It also goes without saying that you should never consume large quantities of alcohol before getting behind the wheel – including driving early in the morning after a big night out the evening before.

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Busting the Myths Surrounding Emergency Contraception

Posted Tuesday 29 November 2016 13:53:36 by Tim Deakin in Emergency Contraception

emergency contraceptionThe issue with contraception and sex is that often they’re either not discussed or discussed in private, a reality that can make the facts surrounding both particularly blurry. As a result, you may not be armed with the information you need to keep safe. Emergency contraception, also known as the morning-after pill is not new to the market and yet there are a number of misconceptions and myths that can be problematic for women who need the correct information in order to help them make important decisions relating to birth control.

Levonelle and ellaOne are both forms of emergency contraception that can be taken retrospectively to prevent pregnancy. Levonelle must be taken within three days of unprotected sex and ellaOne within five days. While both prevent or delay the release of an egg, ellaOne is considered to be more effective than Levonelle.

Now, let us look in more detail at what emergency contraception does and does not offer women.

The morning after pill does not protect you from STIs

Contrary to popular belief, like many forms of hormonal contraception, the morning after pill doesn’t protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). As a form of oral contraception, it works by releasing chemicals into the body, which affect the body’s natural response to fertilisation. As such, it cannot form a physical barrier that may also safeguard against sexually transmitted diseases or pelvic infections – as found with condoms and some forms of IUD (intrauterine device).

It does not cause abortion

While medication can be used to bring on abortion, emergency contraception works in a different way. Emergency contraception works by stopping the release of an egg and may also stop sperm from fertilising an egg that has already been released into the fallopian tubes. Levonelle contains levonorgestrel and ellaOne contains ulipristal acetate – which disrupts the natural hormone progesterone within a woman’s body. Progesterone is integral to the ovulation process and as a result, ovulation is prevented or delayed. For eggs that have already been fertilised and have implanted in the uterus, most forms of emergency contraception will have no effect.

Emergency contraception does not become less effective with more use

It is hard to pinpoint the exact number of pregnancies that have been prevented due to the use of Levonelle or ellaOne. However, research conducted in 2010 revealed that of the 1,696 women who received emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) within three days of unprotected sex, just 37 became pregnant. The same study showed that of the 203 women who took the morning after pill within three to five days of sex, three became pregnant. The rule of thumb is that the sooner you take EHCs after unprotected sex, the more effective they are likely to be.

Whilst neither Levonelle or ellaOne should be used as a method of regular contraception, both can be used more than once during any one menstrual cycle if necessary without diminishing effectiveness. It is important to note, that both EHCs do not offer continued protection and only prevent pregnancy after one act of unprotected sex. With Levonelle, your regular method of hormonal contraception will remain effective, however if you were to have sex after taking ellaOne you should use condoms as your normal contraception may not work as effectively as it should do.

It does not become less effective with alcohol

Alcohol or drug use does not make Levonelle or ellaOne any less effective. However, it is important to note that one of the primary side effect of excess alcohol consumption – vomiting – can impact on the effectiveness of oral contraceptives such as EHCs. If you vomit within two hours of taking emergency contraceptive Levonelle or within three hours with ellaOne, it is recommended that you seek medical advice where you will be either given another dose of your preferred EHC or fitted with an IUD.

Make sure you keep safe

In addition to offering trusted advice, Express Pharmacy can help you order the morning after pill discreetly. Simply select your treatment, complete our medical questionnaire and checkout to access a range of fast delivery options.

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All You Need to Know About the Flu Virus

Posted Thursday 24 November 2016 17:32:00 by Tim Deakin in Primary Care Givers

flu vaccineWith winter fast approaching, the health headlines are filled with seasonal cold and flu stories. It is indeed the time of year when the flu virus strikes and for older people in particular being struck down by this winter bug can be especially debilitating.

Most commonly suffered between December and March when the weather is at its coldest and your immune system more vulnerable, you may have already encountered seasonal flu. Knowing exactly what seasonal flu is and what you can do to protect yourself is the key to making the festive season a pleasant one and not a pain-filled one.

What is seasonal flu?

Flu or influenza can strike at any time of the year but is more common during the winter months. Flu is essentially a virus that is extremely infectious and rather unpleasant, and whilst it is often mentioned in the same breath as the common cold, the two are very different. The common cold and seasonal flu are the result of different virus groups, and with the flu, symptoms such as fever, fatigue, headaches, coughs, aches and pains start suddenly and last for much longer.

There are three types of flu virus, A, B and C, although C is much more rare than the other two forms of the disease. Once you have been infected, flu virus symptoms tend to appear within two to three days, however most will start to feel relief within one week. Children, older people and individuals with weakened immune systems however many feel unwell for longer periods.

For elderly people and those with long-term health issues, exposure to flu can also lead to serious complications, including chest infections and worsening of existing long-term health conditions. In rare cases, flu can cause tonsillitis, ear infections, sinusitis, convulsions, meningitis and encephalitis. Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to infection, and the flu has been linked to pregnancy complications.

As we mentioned the flu is extremely infectious and is passed on from the nose and mouth of the infected person via coughing and sneezing.

What can you do to protect yourself?

There are many ways that you can protect yourself from the flu virus. As the infection is passed from person to person, good hygiene can go a long way in preventing its spread. In addition to washing your hands on a regular basis with warm water and soap, you should also clean surfaces that you commonly come into contact with or share contact with – door handles, computer keyboards and telephones are common culprits when it comes to the spread of flu. Using tissues to guard your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, and disposing of those tissues immediately, is also vital to stopping its spread.

The flu vaccine is also an excellent route to prevention, and whilst it is available for free on the NHS to those aged 65 or over, children aged between 2 and 4 years old, pregnant women, children of school age (in years one and two only), those with long-term health conditions (children and adults suffering from chronic heart or lung disease are particularly susceptible to infection and more serious complications) and individuals with weaker immune systems, privately anyone can have access to the annual flu vaccine. Delivered to children as a nasal spray or to adults as a trivalent (three-component) and quadrivalent (four-component) shot, the flu vaccine triggers the development of protecting antibodies and is most effective when given between September and early November.

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It's Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month This November. Take This Opportunity to Learn About the Effects, Symptoms and Causes of the Disease

Posted Monday 14 November 2016 21:54:00 by Tim Deakin in Smoking Cessation

Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month has returned this November with its “Turn it Purple” campaign. While raising awareness is a year round mission for charities such as Pancreatic Cancer Action, November is the month when a light is shone firmly on a disease that sees 9,000 new people diagnosed each year, with a remaining life expectancy of just three to six months on average.

In this article we’ll take a closer look at some of the early symptoms that, if caught, could help to save lives, and some of the preventative measures that can be taken to avoid such an aggressive disease.

What is the pancreas and what does it do?

The pancreas is an organ that plays a vital role in breaking down food by releasing enzymes into the small intestine. The 6-inch long organ also produces hormones such as insulin and glucagon, designed to control blood sugar levels and help the body to use and store energy effectively.

There are two main types of malignant tumour responsible for pancreatic cancer. These are exocrine tumours – accounting for an estimated 90% of sufferers – and endocrine tumours.

Pancreatic cancer symptoms

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most aggressive forms of the disease and is particularly difficult to diagnose early because the symptoms can be hard to spot. However, there are some tell-tale signs to look out for.

Low mood or depression can be one symptom attributed to pancreatic cancer, as can fatigue and pain during eating. Some of the most common symptoms include indigestion that you can’t get rid of, mid back pain or upper abdominal pain, pale and smelly stools, or painless jaundice.

Causes of pancreatic cancer

While pancreatic cancer can affect almost anyone, it is has been closely linked to ageing, smoking and obesity, as well as a family history of the disease. The most significant risk factor for pancreatic cancer is almost certainly age. From the age of 50 onwards, cases of pancreatic cancer rise sharply, with the average age of sufferers estimated to be 72.

While very little can be done to hold back the effects of ages, the next most common contributing factor can be tackled. Smoking accounts for a third of pancreatic cancer cases and is, in fact, the only confirmed environmental cause of the disease according to research.

To put the risk of smoking into context, a 2006 study looking at the risk of smokers vs non smokers placed the increased risk caused by smoking at 74%. While this is tough news to take for those who have been addicted to smoking for some time, it is important to note that quitting smoking at any point can significantly reduce the risk of dying from pancreatic cancer – and indeed many forms of cancer.

The benefits of kicking the habit increase the longer an individual continues to be smoke free, with some reports suggesting that just 5 years after quitting, the associated risk reduces to the same levels as those who have never smoked.

Of course, smoking is well known for its many risks and there are numerous other diseases and conditions closely linked to tobacco. If you are ready to kick the habit now, Express Pharmacy offers Champix – an effective nicotine-free smoking cessation treatment. Find out more about how Champix can help you kick the habit here.

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