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    Cancer danger signs you dare not ignore

    Cyril Blackburn

    Cancer danger signs are often vague and in many cases there are few to no symptoms. To tell the truth, prostate cancer ─ the most common male cancer ─ is one of the cancers with the least obvious symptoms.

    Research by the MD Anderson Cancer Prevention Center at the University of Texas has proved that men are often guilty of not going for annual examinations or of visiting a doctor regularly. The result is that many men ignore or simply don’t notice cancer danger signs ─ something that any cancer sufferer will regret.

    Therese Bevers, Director of the MD Anderson centre, sheds some light on some of the major symptoms or danger signs that are often ignored by men.

    An unusual lump

    A lump under your skin could be a sign of cancer. These lumps usually occur in the breast, testicles, lymph nodes and soft tissue, such as ligaments. A lump like this should be discussed with your doctor immediately.

    A change in your testicles

    If one or both of your testicles swells or grows, it could also be a sign of cancer. If a man’s testicles feel heavy and swollen, it is often a warning that he should have been to see his doctor long ago. All these symptoms could point to testicular cancer.

    A change in your toilet habits

    If you have to constantly go to the toilet, and often experience pain when you urinate, it could be a sign of bladder or prostate cancer. Other signs to look out for, are blood in your urine or stool. It is also important to remember that diarrhoea that doesn’t go away could also be dangerous.

    Changes in your skin colour

    It is not only people who work out of doors in the sun who get skin cancer. Bevers says if you have sores that don’t heal or warts on your body that change colour, it could often point to cancer. Every person is supposed to constantly watch his skin for any change in colour or sensitivity.

    A change in your digestion or if it becomes difficult to swallow

    A chronic burning sensation in your throat or chest must not be ignored, Bevers cautions. She says a sudden change in your digestion or when it becomes difficult to swallow, has got nothing to do with age. On the contrary, it could possibly be signs of esophageal, stomach or throat cancer.

    A chronic cough or hoarseness

    If your cough or hoarseness persists for more that three weeks, it is extremely dangerous. Even if you are a smoker a sore throat or a cough for longer than three weeks is not normal. A chronic hoarseness, short-windedness or coughing up blood could all be signs of lung cancer.

    Changes in your mouth

    Do a close examination of your mouth when you brush your teeth in the morning or at night. White spots in your mouth or on your tongue could be an indication of a precancerous condition that could later become cancer. Especially sores, inexplicable bleeding or extreme sensitivity of the mouth are reasons for seeing a doctor.

    Inexplicable weight loss

    If you are constantly losing weight without having changed your diet or exercise programme, you should also see a doctor. Losing weight for no reason is a danger sign of pancreatic, stomach, esophageal or lung cancer.

    Constant tiredness

    If you are constantly tired irrespective of how much sleep you get and changes to your diet, it could be a sign of leukaemia or even colon or stomach cancer.

    Chronic pain

    Constant back pain, headache or stomach ache that does not want to go away, could, apart from cancer, point to many other chronic illnesses.

    Bevers says that none of these symptoms definitely point to cancer but that it is important to remember to go for medical examinations annually to prevent cancer from catching you off guard.

    For more information, visit the MD Anderson Cancer Prevention Center’s website.





    What happens to my body when I stop smoking?

    Cyril Blackburn

    It may be one of your favourite pastimes, but it isn’t new news that smoking harbours a great risk for you and those around you. The danger signs are after all written in huge letters on the pack: This habit could change your life forever.

    According to research by the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), tobacco and passive smoking – when you inhale the smoke of a smoker merely by being in his or her presence while they are smoking – contain more than 1 400 harmful chemicals of which 300 cause cancers.

    The same research shows that tobacco-related diseases are responsible for the deaths of more than 44 000 South Africans and approximately six million people world-wide. These statistics boil down to one person every six seconds and one out of 10 world-wide.

    Which diseases are connected to smoking?

    According to CANSA, cigarette smoking is connected to decreased lung function, lung growth and asthma. Smokers are also more susceptible to viruses that cause colds and flu. Apart from these illnesses the use of tobacco increases a smoker’s risk for diseases such as lung, gullet, mouth, bladder, pancreas, kidney and stomach cancer.

    Cigarette smoke also stimulates the secretion of epinephrine (adrenaline) in the blood, which causes an abnormal rise in blood pressure. Furthermore, the tar in smoke hampers the respiratory system. Over a long period, smoking also contributes to arteriosclerosis, which is the main cause of heart attacks and strokes.

    What happens when I stop smoking?

    According to research by the Stop Smoking campaign, your risk for heart-related diseases decreases by half within the first year when you stop smoking. You therefore have a 50% less probability for heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure. You will also be less inclined to become short of breath, be stressed of feeling tired all the time.

    Within 20 minutes after your last cigarette your blood pressure will fall to the normal level. After a week your body will be nicotine-free. After a month you will cough less, your sinuses will be open and you will no longer be tired and short of breath. After five years your risk of you dying from lung cancer will have decreased by 50%. After 15 years the risk of you contracting coronary hart disease will have decreased to that of someone who has never smoked.

    Smoking also influences your taste, and person who stop smoking often find that their food tastes better than before. Your sense of smell also improves. Something generally less known about smoking, is that is hampers your natural ageing process and you age faster than a non-smoker. Every draw contains ammonia, cadmium, benzine, formaldehyde, nickel, lead, acetone and pyridine.

    How to kick the smoking habit

    CANSA’s eKick Butt programme is a unique online stop-smoking-programme. With a series of e-mails, recordings and down-loadable material, smokers are guided and mentored to finally kick the habit. The programme also provides handy tools to assist smokers with the process.

    Research by the American MD Anderson Cancer Centre shows that the larger majority of smokers do not succeed in stopping smoking because they do not have a plan of action to kick the habit.

    The Cancer Centre offers some suggestions to finally stop your smoking habit:

    • Choose a date and try to decrease your nicotine consumption before that day. Stop smoking on the day you promised yourself.
    • Obtain the support of your friends and family. Also join support groups – there are many more of these kinds of groups than you might think, and you merely have to do a search on social media.
    • Acquire new habits and determine what causes you to smoke. In many cases it is when persons find themselves in high stress situations. Start a new habit, such as rather chewing gum or going for a walk in the fresh air.
    • Consider nicotine replacement therapy such as medication or stickers applied to your body to help you with withdrawal symptoms.







    Pros and cons of solar panels

    As residential electricity rates continue to increase and place financial pressure on South African households, many are looking at alternate power sources such as solar panels in an attempt to reduce their household electricity consumption.

    Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says that the more electricity a household uses, the more it is charged per unit of electricity. Because of this, there is a growing trend for households to introduce energy-efficient elements to curb their energy usage and overall cost of running the home. “While the concept of ‘green energy’ is not new, the growing cost of electricity has led to consumers becoming more conscious of the energy they use. A study conducted by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) revealed that apart from a safe neighbourhood, the factor that influenced home-buying decisions the most was a home’s energy efficiency,” says Goslett.

    He notes that elements such as solar panels have become increasingly more popular with the energy-efficient movement gaining momentum. However, Goslett says that there are a few pros and cons that homeowners should consider before they go ahead with adding solar panels to their home:

    Pro – reduced utility bill

    It goes without saying that using power generated from the sun will reduce the amount of electricity used from the main power grid, which will reduce the household’s utility bill. In most cases, solar panel systems save between 50% and 75% of an electricity bill. The money saved can go towards paying off the solar panels or other household expenses.

    Con – the upfront cost

    Even though solar panels have become more affordable over the years, the initial upfront cost of installation can be expensive, and it could take some time for the system to pay itself off – typically around seven years.

    Pro – increased value of the home

    Energy-efficient elements add value to a home and a large percentage of the initial outlay of such elements is recouped when the property is sold. “According to the NAHB, approximately 61% of homebuyers would be prepared to pay an additional R50 000 to R100 000 on a home that had features that would reduce utility costs,” says Goslett.

    Con – won’t work on every roof

    There are some roofing materials, such as slate tiles, particularly in older homes that make it difficult to install solar panels. There is also the matter of available space on the roof; many homes have limited clear space to fit the solar panels.

    Pro – reduced carbon footprint

    Although going green will save money on utility costs and add value to the home, the financial aspect it is not the only reason. It is also about sustainability and reducing the household’s effect on the environment. Generating energy from fossil fuels emits harmful carbon dioxide and methane, which contributes to global warming – using solar panels for power does not. Solar power also doesn’t require water to process, while other energy sources do.

    Con – maintenance

    As with all household elements, solar panels require upkeep and maintenance, which come at an additional cost. The solar panels will need to be cleaned, repaired when necessary, and insured.

    “For the right home, installing solar panels could provide a sustainable method of reducing both the energy cost and impact on the environment,” Goslett concludes.


    Key facts about blood clots

    Blood clots include deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE), which are serious but preventable medical conditions.

    DVT is a blood clot in a deep vein, usually in the lower leg, thigh or pelvis, but it can occur in other places, like the arm. If a DVT breaks off and travels through the bloodstream to the lungs, it causes a PE, which is a blockage of arteries in the lungs. Together, DVT and PE are known as venous thromboembolism (VTE). It is important to know about VTE because it can happen to anybody and can cause serious illness, disability and even death. Many VTE events are preventable and if found early, can be treated.

    Key Facts

    • Knowing the signs and symptoms of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) is critical for early detection.
    • Signs and symptoms of DVT include swelling, pain, tenderness and redness of the skin in the affected area of the body.
    • PEs can occur without any signs of a DVT and they can be deadly.
    • Signs and symptoms of a PE include difficulty breathing, chest pain, irregular heartbeat and coughing up blood.
    • Seek immediate medical care if you experience symptoms of a DVT or PE.


    Source: Centre for Disease Control and Prevention


    Tips to calm your dog’s separation anxiety

    Does your dog get nervous when he sees you getting ready to leave the house? Does he go bonkers with joy when you come home? Did he destroy your shoes, claw the door, or chew the corner off an end table while you were gone?

    Your dog could have separation anxiety.

    What is it?

    Separation anxiety happens when a dog that is hyperattached to his owner gets superstressed when left alone. It’s more than a little whining when you leave or a bit of mischief while you’re out. It’s a serious condition and one of the main reasons why owners get frustrated with their dogs and give them up, but there are plenty of things you can do to help.

    First, understand what causes your dog to act this way

    • Being left alone for the first time or when he’s used to being with people
    • Change of ownership
    • Moving from a shelter to a home
    • Change in family routine or schedule
    • Loss of a family member

    Signs of separation anxiety

    A dog that has it, shows a lot of stress when he’s alone. He may:

    • howl, bark, or whine to excess;
    • have indoor “accidents” even though he’s housebroken;
    • chew things up, dig holes, scratch at windows and doors;
    • drool, pant, or salivate way more than usual;
    • pace, often in an obsessive pattern; and
    • try to escape.

    He likely won’t do any of these things to an extreme while you’re around. A normal dog may do some of these things once in a while, but one with separation anxiety will do them almost all the time.

    How to treat it

    First, talk to your vet to rule out any medical problems. Sometimes dogs have accidents in the house because of infections or hormone problems or other health conditions. It also could be due to incomplete housebreaking. Also, some medication can cause accidents. If your dog takes any medicine, ask your vet if these are to blame.

    If the problem is mild …

    • Give your dog a special treat each time you leave (such as a puzzle toy stuffed with peanut butter). Only give him this treat when you leave, and take it away when you get home.
    • Make your comings and goings low-key without a lot of greeting. Ignore your pup for the first few minutes after you get home.
    • Leave some recently worn clothes out that smell like you.
    • Consider giving your pet over-the-counter natural calming supplements.

    If the problem is more serious …

    A dog with severe anxiety won’t be distracted by even the tastiest treats. You’ll need to slowly make him used to your absence.

    He may start getting nervous when he sees signs that you’re about to leave, such as putting on your shoes or picking up your keys. So do those things, but then don’t leave. Put on your shoes and then sit down at the table. Pick up your keys and watch TV. Do this over and over many times a day.

    When your dog begins to feel less anxious about that, you can slowly begin to disappear. First just go to the other side of the door. Tell your dog to stay, then close an inside door between you. Reappear after a few seconds. Slowly increase the amount of time you’re gone. Put on your shoes and pick up your keys. Tell your dog to stay while you go into another room.

    As he gets more used to the “stay game”, increase the amount of time you’re gone. Then use an outside door, but not the same one you go out of every day. Make sure your dog is relaxed before you leave.

    Only you can tell if your dog is ready to be left alone for longer periods. Don’t rush things. Give him a stuffed treat when you’ve built up to 10 seconds or so apart. Always act calm when you leave and when you return.

    Gradually build up the time until you can leave the house for a few minutes. Then stay away for longer and longer periods.

    For all dogs

    Make sure your pet gets lots of exercise every day. A tired, happy dog will be less stressed when you leave. It’s also important to challenge your pet’s mind. Play training games and fetch. Use interactive puzzles. Work his mind as well as his body. That will keep him busy, happy, and too tired to be anxious while you’re gone.


    Source: WebMD


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