The Silent Killer

In the UK, our love for sugar may slowly be killing us. Although sugary foods taste good in our mouths, they are not that good for our bodies. Our unbalanced diets, love for Netflix and heavy drinking are actually causing more harm than good. This is because they all increase the risk of getting diabetes.
There are two different types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is when the pancreas has stopped making insulin because the body’s immune system attacks the cells that produce this insulin. Type 2 diabetes is when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or the cells within the body do not react to insulin. Approximately 90% of people who have diabetes have type 2 diabetes. This is a worrying percentage because this type of diabetes is self-inflicted.
Over 3 million people in the UK have diabetes. Unfortunately, this number is steadily rising. This rise is due to an increase of people with obesity, high blood pressure, having unbalanced diets and living sedentary lifestyles. There are also many people living their lives, unbeknownst that they have this condition. This is a huge problem because uncontrolled diabetes can lead to various of complications which include: heart disease, kidney disease, strokes and vision loss.
In recent years, there has been a worrying increase of children being diagnosed with the condition. This is likely due to a love of all things sweet and the ease in which children are able to get them. Children need to be encouraged to eat more fruits and vegetables as well as play more sports and watch less TV.
In order to prevent the development of diabetes, it is important to eat a healthy, balanced diet, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight and drink alcohol in moderation.  It is very difficult to revert type 2 diabetes, so its prevention is vital since having the condition puts a person’s life at risk. 
 
Prevent diabetes before it kills you.
 
By Bernice Mangundu.
 

‘I’m so stressed…’

‘I’m so stressed…’
Essay due tomorrow?
Work problems?
Relationship problems?
Whatever it may be, everyone has been stressed.

As a student, I understand the world of stress: I may have an excessively long homework due the next day that I haven’t started, or a meeting with a friend that I haven’t seen in a while – even right now, writing up this blog post that I should be posting before the end of the day! All of these things and more cause me to feel stressed. It makes my heart race, my breathing becomes heavy and my muscles tense. Here’s how it works…

First, an almond shaped group of neurones sitting deep on each side of your brain evaluates the stressful situation at hand (this is called the amygdala and it is responsible for our emotions). Afterwards, the hypothalamus links the neurones and endocrine systems through the secretion of hormones from the pituitary and adrenal glands causing a response…

Our adrenal glands release hormones such as adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol -these make us feel the way we do when we’re stressed as it triggers our ‘fight or flight’ mechanism. You may get ‘butterflies’; that feeling in your stomach as if all your intestines are swirling around – that is literally your body slowing down, or even stopping digestion completely to focus all of your energy into ‘fighting’ or ‘running’ from your stressful situation. You may get a headache – this is caused by the muscles in your head, neck and shoulders tightening up. What might shock you is that the hormones released when you’re stressed can actually lead to much worse things than the short term feelings that you get. For example, the liver releases glucose to fuel respiration so we can ‘fight or flight’ in our situation; if you are stressed too often and the stress is caused by something more psychological than physical which doesn’t require you to use the glucose released, it can actually lead to diabetes! In addition to this, the hormones released aren’t good for the heart and can horrifyingly lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks or even stroke.

At the end of this intense system, is the hippocampus, a seahorse shaped structure responsible for emotions and memory formation, and the frontal cortex involved in decision making and executive function – these put the stress cycle to an end.

Honestly, why do we even get stressed? Why does this system exist? Imagine how great a world without stress would be! The thing is, this stress system used to be very useful for us humans: it’s main purpose was for situations such as running away from a predator (or fighting them – if you’re brave!). But now, the system is much less for physical purposes, but much more psychological – this is something I want to stress. Stress is real. Mental illness is real. Just because you’re doing something as simple as meeting an old friend and the collection of feelings that come with stress hit you, doesn’t mean you’re ‘weak’ or ‘whiny’. Stress is a real thing and if you overdo yourself and convince yourself you’re being weak, you can stress yourself out more! If you stress out too often, it can lead to chronic stress; heavy amounts of stress can lead to post traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and cognitive disorders. This is why the way you treat stress is important!

One of the most common ways to treat stress is exercise. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins. These interact with the receptors in the brain to reduce our perception of pain and trigger a positive feeling in the body. Plus, it’s winter, and you know what they say ‘summer bodies are made in winter’! Don’t think this means that you have to exercise for hours on end to get rid of your stress, just half an hour a day is fine!

Another highly recommended way to deal with stress is meditation. I recently read an article by Dr Enikő Zsoldos (psychologist and postdoctoral researcher in the Neurobiology of Ageing group, Department of Psychiatry) about a type of meditation called ‘Mindfulness’, a type of meditation originating from Buddhist traditions (I’ll put the link to the article at the bottom of this article). The aim of meditation is relaxation, self awareness and reach freedom from despair and sorrow. In mindfulness, you sit still and focus on one thing and if a distraction arises, you embrace it without trying to change it – very metaphorical but it is just accepting the present without thinking of the future or past – thus relieving panic and stress.

Stress is such a common problem in our modern world to the point that there are even apps made for the purpose of helping with stress! Whilst I haven’t tried any of these and some of them are still being tested in the NHS, I will leave a link to a list of apps at the end of this. If you’re the type to put all your reminders on your phone, all the important dates etc. then I would try them out!

These things may not work for everyone, it may be that you can’t get into them or feel like you don’t have the time to do these things, and I completely understand. But the most important thing is to try! And also try to have a positive mind about stress, don’t brush it away but think ‘I should focus’, ‘I need to get this done’ – if I was never stressed, I would never finish any of my homework nor complete any of my tasks to a high standard! And have you ever gotten butterflies in your stomach when you see something that makes you happy? Like someone you like or food! We would never get that without the stress response! The ‘fight or flight’ mechanism was made to help us, so we should use it to our advantage!

If nothing seems to work and you can’t deal with the stress alone, know that you don’t need to deal with the stress by yourself! You can tell someone, be it a close friend, or a teacher. For example, students, if you’re stressed because your homework is piling up and you have no idea how to manage your time, tell a trusted teacher. But if you really can’t get yourself out of the cycle of stress, consult your GP.

Written by Antonia Jayme

Links used:
• How stress works
o https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/ss/slideshow-stress-and-you
• Mindfulness meditation
o https://medium.com/oxford-university/a-mindful-approach-to-the-year-will-your-brain-thank-you-for-it-fda63216c36a
• NHS list of apps to manage and improve health
o https://apps.beta.nhs.uk/?category=Mental+Health

 

‘That’ Blood Test you may have read about

Sunday marked World cancer day, and the internet was filled with things to do with it! We had people showing off their unity bands, while others were sharing their uplifting stories of recovery. It was an important day, to raise awareness, to admire the fighters and to salute the survivors. While it is important to celebrate how far we have come, we must still remember those who have lost the fight. In solemn moments like those, the loss can seem overwhelming, but the pace at which new treatments are being developed is something very exciting!

I am sure we can all appreciate the importance of diagnosing and treating cancer in its early stages, as this greatly increases the chances of treatment being successful. In my endeavours to do ‘wider reading’ for medicine, I stumbled upon a headline about a ‘Blood test that can detect 8 different types of cancer’. In the moment, I didn’t get time to read it (as I was in the study area and was actually supposed to be studying), but I bookmarked it for later. When I got time (which as an A-level student, is rare) I went back to do more research, and this is what I found out:

How does the test work, and how was the research carried out?

The blood test, called CancerSEEK, works by searching for mutations (changes in the sequence of DNA) in 16 genes that commonly arise in cancer and in 8 proteins that are often released. The test recognises mutations in ctDNA (circulating tumour DNA) and protein biomarkers, which can be found in the blood. These biomarkers are ‘naturally occurring molecules, genes or characteristics by which a particular condition/disease etc. can be identified’. CancerSEEK was tested on 1005 patients with stage 1 to 3 cancers. The eight cancers it was tested on were: Ovary, liver, oesophagus, pancreas, stomach, colorectum, lung and breast. 812 healthy individuals (with no cancer) were used as a control population, to compare the results to. A patient’s result was classified as positive if the mutation in one of the 16 genes or the levels in one of the eight proteins was greatly elevated as compared to the healthy control population.

The Success of CancerSEEK

In summary, the median overall ability to find cancer was 70% for those 8 common cancers. Furthermore, sensitivity of the test to liver cancer in stage 1, was 100%, however, overall, the median sensitivity to stage 1 cancer was a low 43%.

CancerSEEK has been described as ‘promising’, although there is a lot more research to be done into it, mainly because one of the major limitations of the study was that all of the patients already had known cancers.

My thoughts on CancerSEEK

I think that this whole study is extremely exciting! If we can identify these 8 most common cancers, then the cases of cancer globally would be reduced immensely. This non-invasive test, in my opinion, once developed, will be much preferred over other, invasive means of diagnosing cancer, such as colonoscopy. On the other hand, CancerSEEK has a 1% false rate, which may cause concern for many people as they could be told that they have cancer, when in fact, they do not, so while CancerSEEK may help the situation, we may still require the invasive procedures to confirm whether a person has cancer or not. I absolutely agree with the main conclusions of most articles, that this test is promising, but requires a lot more development and research.

By Muskaan Jonathan

If you would like to find out more about CancerSEEK, here are the links to the articles I used:

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/891491#vp_5

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/01/19/promising-blood-test-detects-eight-different-kinds-cancer-spread/

https://www.pancan.org/news/6-things-know-cancerseek-test-early-detection/

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/kimmel_cancer_center/cancerseek_faqs.html

The Making of a Medic

I am Bernice, a 17-year old facing the many challenges of school life. One of these challenges used to be the seemingly simple question, ‘what do you want to be when you are older?’. Whenever teachers or relatives would ask this question, I would become filled with uncertainty and anxiety. I would ask myself, ‘what do I want to do?’ The answer to this question has changed as frequently as it has been asked, over the years.  I’ve wanted to be a teacher, an artist, a fashion designer, an engineer and a plethora of other jobs. This question about my future used to be difficult to answer, but not anymore.

I am now certain about the career path I want to take. No longer does this question about my future fill me with anxiety or worry. There is no hesitation when I respond with, ‘I want to go into medicine’.

A medical career has always been an idea that I’ve considered. I became certain about it when one day, a friend and I were talking about the jobs we wanted when we were older. I listed a few different jobs that interested me, including going into medicine, to which my friend replied with, ‘ I could see you as a doctor’. This made me think, ‘could I see myself as a doctor?’ The answer was and still is, yes.

Taking a medical degree will enable me to gain knowledge about so many fascinating topics and use that knowledge for a great power – the power to help others. The ability to help people in ways that others can’t is a remarkable opportunity that I am determined to work hard for.

I have completed extensive research about what becoming a doctor entails. Though the high entry requirements and tough competition to get into medicine do intimidate me, I am determined to work hard to achieve my desire to go into the medical field.

Though the journey may not be easy, I will become a doctor.

By Bernice Mangundu.

 

Anatomy of Antonia

Who am I?
I am Antonia: sixteen years of age and an aspiring ___.
How does one answer ‘who are you’?
I am Antonia: I’m currently taking A-levels in Newman 6th (biology, chemistry and maths).
Do I need to talk about my hobbies?
I am Antonia: I love to write sing and draw.
Who am I?

As my life progresses, it seems that the definition of ‘Antonia’ changes too. I have come from, primary school, hating maths and being put in the lowest set; to now, somewhat enjoying maths and taking it as an A-level. I have come from wanting to be an artist, an author, a singer – to not knowing what I want at all. As I grow up I learn so many new things that lead to so many new questions.

Looking back at my life, medicine is the one thing that stayed close to me in this growing world, full of questions and uncertainty. I remember wanting to be many things as a young girl, I wasn’t very talented academically, but when it came to art, music and poetry, I was amazing. I felt so at home in this intriguing land of imagination. Soon I realised, my parents would not be very happy with me if I failed all of my SATs at the end of primary school – ‘I should really get better at this’.

So I did: I tried my best, asking my dad for help in maths, finding revision websites such as BBC bitesize, and whilst doing so, I found a set of ‘games’. These did not relate to anything in my curriculum as an eight year old in primary school, they were just so interesting to my little mind. I’d play one game, and I’d play it over and over again, until I memorised every step. This was a game by ‘EdHeads’, namely the knee replacement surgery (fun fact: ever since playing this game, my favourite word is ‘patella’). Before I knew it, I was entranced. I wanted good grades, I wanted to learn, I wanted to achieve. I wanted to be a surgeon.

This began my medical journey.

My grades rose; my ambition grew and my passion for the medical field skyrocketed. And here I am now with 5 As and 5 A*s in GCSEs and currently studying biology, chemistry and maths for A levels.

I still don’t actually know what it is I want to be. I still havent let go of my hobbies such as drawing, singing and writing – simultaneously, my mind still wanders through the vast variety of destinations medicine offers: surgeon, GP, psychiatrist. But one thing I know: I want to be in the medical field.

Who am I?
I am Antonia: sixteen years of age and currently taking A-levels in Newman 6th (biology, chemistry and maths). I love to write sing and draw.

Who do I want to be?
I want to be someone who cares: someone who helps others in times of difficulty, in times of pain, in times of grief. Someone who is able: able to connect, able to deliver, able to achieve.
I want to be someone who makes a difference.

I am Antonia: sixteen years of age and an aspiring medical student.

By Antonia Marie Jayme

Medicine and Me

My name is Muskaan. I am currently 16, and am battling with this oh- so-daunting question that everyone seems to be bombarding me with nowadays: What do you want to be when you are older? I am from India, where many young people like me are ‘manufactured’ into doctors, by their parents, relatives and the unreasonably high and stress-inducing standards they (and sadly, sometimes society) force themselves to keep.  I am lucky enough to have parents that have embraced my (very indecisive) career changes: from a ‘fairy princess’, to a fashion designer, then a psychologist, but finally, I inexplicably find myself drawn to the wonders and variation of medicine.

There was a time in my life where I hated science. When I miserably failed a science test, I vowed to myself that I would never ever even consider becoming a doctor, as my mum and I had had some vague conversations about this strange concept of the ‘future’ before. Doctors were boring. They did the same thing every day: all science, no fun. Just talking and writing scribbling repetitively.

Miraculously, in year 10, when we started doing real GCSE science (rather than just pretending to be the particles in a solids liquids and gases), I suddenly started to look forward to my science lessons! I absolutely loved it, but still didn’t want to be a doctor. Why? Even I don’t quite know the answer to that.

Then rolls along Year 11. It was a hot, summer Friday afternoon. I had just eaten a very large and satisfying lunch of fish and chips- which I really appreciate as a speciality of my school- and was suffering from a serious case of lethargy. I had finished all the coursework I needed to do in that Health and Social lesson with 45 minutes to spare, so I decided to check my emails. I had received one from our careers advisor about a programme run by Medic Mentor. It was about psychology, which is what I was interested in at the time. When I clicked on the link, however, for reasons unknown to me, I was drawn to the Medicine part of the page. It looked good! I emailed my parents the link, hoping they would agree to book a place.

Then I researched a lot about doctors. What do they do? What CAN they do? How much do they get paid? (those results made me shamelessly happy) Then I came upon the entry requirements and competition for places. I have always set my bar high, but for the first time, I felt that the bar was too high, unreachable, on another dimension of existence. There was a lot to look forward to, but the immense amount of work needed to get to the pot of gold on the other side (of the rainbow?) intimidated me.

I almost forwarded the psychology link on Medic Mentor’s website to my parents saying that I had accidentally sent them the wrong one to medicine before, but then I thought to myself: I love science. I love that warm, fuzzy (a little bit cheesy) feeling you get inside after helping someone. Some people have told me I am a ‘born doctor’. Should I really just shun the idea without taking a good look at it? I sent them the psychology link, but I said that I would like to attend the medicine one. This action surprised me momentarily, but I didn’t think too much of it because I just felt like it would just be another fun day out in London for me to make the final decision that medicine was not for me.

I could not be more wrong! The best things in life happen unexpectedly. During that weekend with Medic Mentor, I realised that this saying is 100% true! I went and I came back a changed girl. Excited by medicine. Inspired by medicine. Ready for medicine. All I came back asking myself was why did I ever NOT want to be a doctor? The competition, the stress, the requirements and the work were still intimidating, and still are (very much so sometimes), but I know deep down that it is all worth it even though it might not seem so at the time.

I still struggle today with fear of the work, doubts on my own ability to cope. I often question if it is still what I am intent on doing. Sometimes the answer is no! Run in the other direction! Save yourself! But when the answer is yes (which thankfully, it is most of the time) I remember that I can’t wait to help people. I can’t wait to make a difference. I can’t wait to change their lives with medicine, and I can’t wait for my own life to be changed with medicine!

By Muskaan Jonathan

About Medicine on My Mind

We are a group of sixth formers in year 12 who are aspiring to be medical students. In order to help ourselves (and for the sheer enjoyment of it), we have set up this website as a place for us to post interesting things we find and think, relating to medicine.

The 3 admins of Medicine on My Mind are Muskaan Jonathan, Antonia Jayme and Bernice Mangundu, however, we do have some ‘guest bloggers’ who will post whenever they find something they would like to share. If you would like to be a guest blogger, please contact us via our email address or facebook page.

There will hopefully be a post every Tuesday. Please enjoy!

Do not hesitate to contact us if there is anything you find good or even bad: your opinion would be much appreciated in helping us to improve!