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|Do mobile phones cause brain tumours? We don't know yet, The jury is still out.|
|United Kingdom||Created: 15 Aug 2016|
Four years ago, the soul singer John Newman had a brain tumour removed. This year, it returned.
He tells Nick Duerden why he is upbeat, despite the diagnosis
Four years ago, as he was enjoying his first taste of chart success, John Newman began to suffer problems with his sight. "1 was getting dizzy and starting to go blind,"
he recalls. Newman, from North Yorkshire, reacted the way he believes anyone from his part of the world would. "I was like: I'm fine, I'm okay." Increasingly, however, it became apparent that he was neither.
"So I went to the optician. The optician rushed me straight to the eye hospital, the eye hospital sent me to a neurotherapist" - and the neurotherapist diagnosed a brain tmour, likely benign but sufficiently big and dramatic-seeming, he'says, "that it was going to start causing some really bad shit", unless they did something about it straight away.
The tumour - or most of it, at any rate - was swiftly excised, thereby allowing him to return to the business of becoming a pop star. Over the next few years, he underwent
a succession of routine MRI scans , but at his last check-up his doctors confirmed what he had feared: the tumour had returned with the constant anxiousness
and worry. My doctors are monitoring the situation.
Brain tumours command some pretty unpleasant statistics. Some 16,000 people are diagnosed with one every year in the UK, and more children - and adults under 40 - die from this type of cancer than any other. It has one of the lowest survival rates, in fact, and for those that do survive, quality of life can often be reduced.
"There also happens to be more than 120 different kinds," says Geoffrey Pilkington, professor of cellular and molecular neurooncology at the University of Portsmouth, and one of the most experienced researchers in his field, having specialised in the area
He says that unlike most cancers, the threat of which tends to increase with age, brain
tumours can affect us right the way through life. They can arise at any age from childhood to old age; indeed they may even be detected in-utero, before birth.
Brain tumours constitute 2 per cent of all cancers in the UK but receive less than 1 per cent of the national cancer spend, and statistics suggest that cases are growing year-on-year.
The illness is difficult to diagnose because the symptoms Â blindness, problems with hearing, headaches and seizures - are also symptomatic of many other conditions. Consequently, says Professor Pilkington, they can be diagnosed late. "And when they do finally become symptomatic, they have often spread.
"Not all are malignant, but because of the area in which they grow- already compromised terms of available space- they are always serious."
John Newman's first tumour wasn't diagnosed as benign, he points out, until after his operation. "But then there isn't just one cup on the table full of benign, and one full of cancer'," he says. "It's just a mess on the table.
There is no wall to separate one from the other. They cross over."
Even after treatment, it is unlikely that every last cell, cancerous or otherwise, will have been removed. And so they can, and often do, return.
Survival rates for the most malignant form is just shy of 15 months, and they can strike at any time, either due to a genetic disposition or external causes.
What those external causes might include is much discussed, the most hotly debated of which is the mobile phone,
"A question we often get is: do mobile phones cause brain tumours?" says Dr Kieran
Breen, director of Brain Tumour Research. "And the answer is: we don't know yet. There is not enough data. The jury is still out.
Should it prove that the essential component of' 21st-century living does indeed cause a dreadful, and often fatal, disease then it could prove a plague of biblical proportions. So medical professionals are duty-bound to err on the side of caution recommending the use of hands- free technology, for instance.
Further .research into the possible threat brought by smartphones is one reason for the need for more funding.
Another is to better deal with the different kinds of tumour on a bespoke basis. Though fatality rates can be disproportionately high, it is also, true that many people recover, and fully.
Some survivors will suffer educational deficits, hormonal problems, and both physical and neurological ones, but there are now means by which to test people in order to put them into different subgroups, and then treat them appropriately.
"At the moment, cancer patients tend to be effectively treated by a regimen of therapy which is highly toxic, yet it is this very toxicity that can damage them, albeit while potentially curing them," says Professor Pilkington. "But we are now looking into therapies that can be custom-built according to different subgroups of the kind of tumour they have, which will help improve survival rates and also facilitate a much better quality of life."
The individual's mindset, meanwhile, might also help the long-term outcome. His own tumour aside, John Newman is a strapping young man of extraordinary drive. He
enjoys being an internationally successful singer.
He says: "People have suggested I take a break from music, but I can't do it. I have to keep making music in order to stay happy; if I don't, I'm a mess."
Doctors are planning to operate on him at some point next year. “My prognosis is good, so I'm lucky," he says. "I'm one of the lucky ones”
MRI scanners are used to detect brain tumours, one of the most dangerous forms of cancer
Scanned from The Independent newspaper “i” 150816
|Source: Agnes Ingvarsdottir|
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