• In the largest study of its kind ever conducted, researchers from University of Sydney have determined that almost half of all bowel cancer survivors suffer memory loss and have trouble multitasking and concentrating because of the disease.
• Many common medicines including paracetamol and aspirin will no longer be available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) from the start of next year. The Government said paracetamol, along with common drugs for heartburn and skin allergies, would no longer be subsidised as prescription drugs.
• One of only four medical illustrators in Australia is hoping to keep the niche field alive by moving into 3D modelling and animation. Madeleine Kersting Flynn helps doctors and researchers present their work in pictures. “There is a lot of problem-solving with medical and scientific illustration, it is all about communication to get the point across” Ms Kersting Flynn said.
News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 4th November 2015. Read by Rebecca Foster. Health News
In the largest study of its kind ever conducted, researchers have determined that almost half of all bowel cancer survivors suffer memory loss and have trouble multitasking and concentrating because of the disease.
The University of Sydney researchers believe the results hold true for people with many cancers and has nothing to do with chemotherapy.
“It’s often after they get back to work they notice it and in particular what they complain about is problems with multitasking,” said Janette Vardy, Associate Professor of Cancer Medicine at the University of Sydney.
She and her team set out to find out just how many cancer patients were experiencing these cognitive lapses.
They measured hundreds of colorectal, or bowel cancer, patients against healthy controls.
“So what we found to our great surprise was that there was great high rates cognitive impairment before people had received any chemotherapy whatsoever,” she said.
“So what we found was that in those that had localised colorectal cancer, so 43 per cent of those had cognitive impairment based on our definition, compared to only 15 per cent of the healthy controls.”
Even a year later, when there was no trace of bowel cancer in the patient’s bodies, they were still three times more likely to have issues with things like memory and concentration than healthy people.
Associate Professor Vardy’s research team found patients who received chemotherapy were no worse off.
“We were expecting the cancer patients who had received chemotherapy to have more cognitive impairment than those who did not go on to receive chemotherapy, but in fact there was very little difference between the two cancer groups with localised disease.
“So the nickname that’s been given of ‘chemo brain’ is not very accurate and it’s probably something more like a ‘cancer brain’.”
The paper, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, focused on bowel cancer, but researchers believe the results would be similar for many cancers.
Many common medicines including paracetamol and aspirin will no longer be available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) from the start of next year.
The Federal Government said it would save nearly $100 million a year by scrapping 17 types of over-the-counter medicines from the PBS.
The Government said paracetamol, along with common drugs for heartburn and skin allergies, would no longer be subsidised as prescription drugs.
“Inefficiencies in the current PBS mean that patients pay for over-the-counter drugs at much higher rates than they would if they bought them off shelf,” Health Minister Sussan Ley told the ABC.
“We are taking these off the PBS and in the process saving the Government money and that means we can invest in new listings, new medicines, lifesaving drugs.”
The Government said the medicines generated 8.7 million scripts, costing the Government $87 million in 2014-15 — most of the annual taxpayer spend on over-the-counter drugs.
It said removing the items from the scheme meant fewer people would pass the PBS safety net threshold, saving further millions.
“A curiosity of the system means that if you reach the safety net for medicines you can access these over-the-counter drugs free,” Ms Ley said.
“But overall while you get up to that safety net you pay as a concessional patient $6.10 on average for Panadol or aspirin when you could buy that medicine for $2 over the counter.
“This distortion costs Government and prevents us from listing new drugs which we might be able to do with those dollars.
“And most patients don’t reach the safety net so there’s an excessive spend on over-the-counter medicines which doesn’t need to happen.” [she said]
One of only four medical illustrators in Australia is hoping to keep the niche field alive by moving into 3D modelling and animation.
Madeleine Kersting Flynn helps doctors and researchers present their work in pictures.
Hailing from the US, Ms Kersting Flynn has been an illustrator for QIMR Berghoffer — a medical research institute in Brisbane — for the past 11 years.
Students, scientists and medical professionals throughout the world use her drawings.
Ms Kersting Flynn first heard about the profession when she was a teenager and was hooked ever since.
“I used to do traditional media like watercolour and pen and ink, then computers came along and nearly everything is done on the computer,” she told 612 ABC Brisbane’s Sarah Howells.
“I like to do half and half, I like to draw …then scan onto the computer and add special effects on the computer.”
Ms Kersting Flynn has adopted 3D modelling and animation as technology has developed.
“Traditionally the drawings are used for journals and for papers that the scientists write,” she said.
“It is important as the drawings can [often be] the tipping point to [help] give their research a step up.
“[The artform] is definitely dropping off these days [with more] photography used.”
Unlike other artwork, medical illustrators use both sides of their brain.
“Not many people like doing that,” Ms Kersting Flynn said.
“There is a creative side to medical illustration; on [the] one hand you can’t draw three arteries where there should be two, but on the other hand you can use your creativity in different ways.
“There is a lot of problem-solving with medical and scientific illustration, it is all about communication to get the point across.”
Ms Kersting Flynn said the art form was challenging as illustrations have to be factual but also attractive to the eye.