I received this email a little while ago. Although I don’t agree I have intentionally misled anyone as I based my advice on research evidence, I accept there are other valid points of view that are different to mine.
Thanks to the author for giving me permission to post in full.
I read your blog today, specifically about Agnus Castus.
‘Power Morcellator’ until very recently was not a phrase I had ever uttered, but it seems women should be talking about this very thing.
In brief, a power morcellator is used in key-hole surgery to break fibroids into tiny pieces in gynaecological operations, making it easier to remove them and avoiding open surgery with its attendant risks such as infection and long recovery times.
However, there has been some worrying evidence emerging from the US that in women where the uterine fibroid turns out to be cancerous (about 1 in 350), their long term prognosis is severely reduced.
“Earlier this year, the United States Federal Drug Agency (FDA) expressed concern about women undergoing laparoscopic power morcellation for the treatment of uterine fibroids and the risk of inadvertent spread of unsuspected cancer (sarcoma) to the abdominal and pelvic cavities, and issued guidance on its use.” BRIEFING September 2014 – Sarcoma UK
The current explanation to account for this is tiny pieces of fibroid tissue are inevitably left behind in the pelvic cavity, which in the case of a malignancy aids the cancer in spreading throughout the abdomen. A way to reduce this risk (from my reading) is to use a bag to collect the tissue (so all the morcellated tissue is contained and removed), but this is not happening routinely at the moment, although the reason for this is unclear – may relate to cost as it makes procedure longer, or the fact that surgeons are not aware of this safety modification.
Clearly there are benefits to this method and I have not looked at data on mortality rates for alternative and possibly more invasive or complex surgical methods. This article from the Wall Street Journal gives the background to the campaign (started by a doctor whose wife developed stage 4 cancer after morcellation) and presents a relatively balanced view on this technique.
“Hooman Noorchashm isn’t a gynecologist, but his battle against a common—and potentially dangerous—hysterectomy procedure has triggered a heated debate and yielded changes in how it is done.”
Although there doesn’t seem to be any current cases in the UK, Sarcoma UK has published some guidelines to women about what to ask your surgeon and what to do if this method was used on you and you are now worried. NICE is apparently publishing guidelines on the use of power morcellators in fibroid surgery in October 2014. But until they do, I think it is important that women are made aware of this issue so they can make informed choices and be able to ask for an alternative surgical method if they are concerned.
If you want to know more about this issue click here for the American Recall Centre, but bear in mind the website is sponsored by WEITZ & LUXENBERG P.C., a law firm focusing on providing legal services to clients injured by negligent corporations and/or entities.
Are you about to have surgery for fibroids? Do you know what method is being used? Have the risks been fully explained to you?
It was 1983. I was thirteen and on a school trip to the theatre to watch the unfortunately titled play ‘When the wind blows’. It was about the aftermath of a nuclear war. The first half of the play sees an elderly couple trying to prepare for what cannot be prepared for; building a nuclear shelter out of an upturned kitchen table and a couple of blankets. The tension builds. The stage is plunged into absolute darkness. There is a breath holding silence.
A giggle rippled out like shockwaves. Exaggerated gagging ensued. Immediately I felt the weight of what I had done as acutely as if I had pressed the big red button. I wanted to cry, melt, die, disappear. My name reverberated around the theatre like aftershocks. I would never get a boyfriend now. My life may as well be over. I held back scolding tears and fervently hoped a real bomb would explode right there and then. Gorbachev did not oblige me. The play ended. The lights came up. The coach journey was what I imagined hell to be like. The teasing continued for months. I left school and buried the terrible memory, but the shame of it never left me.
Roll forward thirty years. Accidently letting one go in front of my husband and daughter, I laughed it off and said if our son were here, I would’ve blamed their dad. My daughter was astounded by her ‘feminist’ mother, who is forever pointing out examples of the patriarchy ad nauseam, pretending she doesn’t fart in order to uphold an unrealistic vision of femininity.
It was only then, chastened by my feisty, independent daughter my thirty year shame turned to rightful anger. If I had been a boy, I would have got a pat on the back for my apposite release. For dropping the F bomb. I would have been a legend. Instead I was made to feel as if, in one unguarded moment of flatulence, I had sullied the reputation of mothers, grandmothers, girlfriends and sisters everywhere.
So I know I am stating the obvious, but I feel like I need to remind women that farting is natural, the sign of a healthy gut. Everyone farts. Even the Queen.
If a boy finishes with you because you let one go on the first date, you’ve had a lucky escape.
Of course, we should all try not to fart in confined spaces like lifts and trains, but to be honest there is little we can really do about it if it happens.
Nothing illustrates the patriarchy more clearly than our need to categorise natural human behaviours as either male or female. Women don’t fart. Men don’t cry.
For me the acrid test of sexual equality will be when women can fart without shame. Fart with pride, with their heads held high and, if they feel so inclined, even light the odd one or two.
And thirty years later, I can finally laugh at my brilliantly timed fart 😉
Legend, I am!
One thing that angers me more than anything else is when I hear people claim that nowadays women have equality with men – I also wonder what planet they live on because it can’t be earth.
This viewpoint isn’t confined to just men, if anything I think women are the worse culprits. However, if the record sales of ‘Fifty shades of Grey’ are anything to go by, it seems women deep down don’t want equality at all – and that is even scarier.
But two stories in the news over Christmas, firmly place women’s issues back into the spotlight. That of the Pakistani teenager shot in the head for speaking out about the right to an education, and the tragic case of the 23 year old woman raped in Delhi and left to die on the roadside, while passersby ignored her friend’s pleas for help and the police argued for thirty minutes about whose responsibility she was.
These stories are shocking, but that is not why they have made the headlines. How many women are raped each day, week, year in India, but whose stories don’t make the news because they are poor, or to ashamed to report it (and lack the confidence a university education gives)? How many girls are denied an education, through violence (who weren’t writing a blog for the BBC)?
It would be nice to think that at least we women in the UK are equal – but the recent allegations that have come to light at the BBC reveal that women are still regarded as second class, a bit of eye candy and not to be taken seriously. Wage inequality persists, despite the fact women are now graduating university with better degrees than men, and
‘the sanction detection rate* for violence against the person was 44.5%, and for rape 29.9%, the 2010/2011 Home Office statistics show.’
Any woman who makes a stand against this inequality is either assumed to be a lesbian, or frigid, and any woman that, despite the hurdles of upbringing and expectation, excels in a given field, is accused of being a man in drag. To be feminine, one must be obedient and non competitive – says who?
How can it be that 50% of the world’s population are still treated as second class citizens? What are we teaching our daughters that they think the way to happiness is snagging a rich husband? Why do I hear women say, I could never work for a female boss, as if sex was a deciding factor in our leadership skills.
Imagine for a moment, if we divided the world population by eye colour and all those with blue eyes were told they were better than everybody else – what would the impact of that be on those without blue eyes? Would the non blue-eyed people accept they were less clever, important, rational etc than the blue-eyed people, or would they rightly assert that eye colour has nothing to do with how good someone is at driving, or map reading, or cooking, or managing others.
Being male or female (or somewhere between) is a biological difference, like eye colour. Unfortunately we have attached to this the concept of gender. Gender is a set of expectations about how we must conduct ourselves, based on whether we are born girl or boy. Gender stereotypes limit both males and females. Have you seen how boring the menswear section is?
To claim feminism is ‘so last century’ – is at best short sighted and at worse, a sinister way of keeping 50% of the world beholden to the other 50%.
“I believe that the rights of women and girls is the unfinished business of the 21st century.” Hillary Clinton
Blue eyes or brown eyes – what does it matter?
What do you think? Are women less than men? Is feminism dead? Is the UK equal? All comments, as long as they are not abusive, will be published. The floor is yours.
*These are defined as the percentage of crimes for which someone is charged, summonsed, and receives a caution or other formal sanction.
An age spot on my left cheek has completely disappeared, and the seborrhoeic keratosis (benign warty growth) on my back, which the doctor said was due to age, has fallen off. On top of that the form of arthritis I have suffered from since childhood, ankylosing spondylitis, which necessitates taking Voltoral daily, seems to have put itself in remission. I haven’t taken a painkiller for over two months, and have not once woken with back pain or stiffness.
What the hell is going on?
Two major changes took place in August at around about the same time. My wonderful, energetic, annoying, make-up and clothes borrowing (stealing), daughter, left home and is currently living and working in Honduras. And…
I started the 5:2 diet. Which means I eat normally five days a week, and fast on two days (one 500 calorie meal).
So which is it that has led to the turning back of time?
Well, the daughter is back in August 2013, and I intend to keep fasting twice a week for the long term, so I guess this time next year, I will have my answer. If the age spot is back; I am out of energy; have a back covered in warty growths; and am popping pills for pain, then the only option will be to kick the daughter out for good.
Anyone else tried the 5:2 diet? If so what changes, aside from weight loss, have you noticed?
I admit this is a bit of a lazy post this week, but only because I have been spending every spare minute of the day completing the second draft of my novel (the one the agent wants to see). And in penance, I am letting you see me without make-up on, and believe me, it is not pretty.
The first draft is rough (see picture). I just write, without censoring my thoughts, or worrying about POV. I write 2000 words a day, every day, until around six weeks later I have 100,000 words. I show no-one this draft.
I then begin all over again. Using bits of the first draft, but often rewriting scenes from a different POV to the one I originally chose, and getting rid of the ‘tell’ – usually backstory, so vital to the writer when constructing the novel from scratch, but boring to the reader. It is only once I have a second draft that I can see the full shape of the story. Or using the make-up analogy, foundation is on and the worst cracks and crevices are smoothed away.
The second draft is the first time I show anyone the story (I would never leave the house without at least foundation on). Time to call in all those favours from review groups and writer friends.
Once I have all the feedback in, comes draft three. Strengthening character motivations and themes. It might also involve writing ‘out’ or ‘in’ a character, and even changing the plot. Back to the make-up analogy, still very much reconstructive – creating cheekbones I don’t have and eyelashes I can only dream about.
Draft four. Close reading of every sentence, often starting from the back and working forward, as it is easier to see each sentence on its own this way. The important thing to do here, is get rid of any lingering cliches or stupid phrasing, and check dialogue sounds natural. Or in make-up terminology, applying eye-shadow, eyeliner and filling in my pale eyebrows, which almost disappear on the outer edge.
And finally, draft five – Now I can focus on the little things, like typos or missing words and checking the whole thing reads smoothly, and there aren’t any continuity errors. I use a text to speech software programme (this one is free), correcting as I go. Time for lipstick and hair.
Now I am ready to submit! Or in make-up terms; this is as good as it is going get.
Luckily my writing can improve further, even if I can’t!
How do you do it? Write a novel I mean, not apply your make-up. Please share.
Dear European Medicines Agency,
Imagine, for a moment, a drug that could cure Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS/PMT), which has minimal reported side effects, and is easy and cheap to produce. What a wonderful drug that would be. A drug that could give a woman her life back after years of excruciating cramps, which even morphine was unable to control. Imagine what it would be like for that woman not to live in dread each month, and even get to the point where she forgets she is about to have a period. Imagine how much money could be saved because that woman no longer needs a hysterectomy and then years of HRT (with its increased risk of womb, ovarian and breast cancer). Imagine how many lives that drug would save if women did not have to have a general anaesthetic, nor the risk of post-operative infection.
If only a drug like that existed, instead of the current treatments on offer such as Prozac, with its increased risk of suicidal thoughts, or drugs like Danazol, which can deepen the voice and stimulate facial hair growth along with many other horrific side effects. Or, taking oral contraceptives, which stop ovulation, and with it, the natural rise and fall of libido, while increasing the risk of blood clots, acne and fluid retention.
If only a herbal remedy existed with hundreds of years of safe usage, and clinical trials proving its effectiveness, like this one reported in the British medical Journal in 2001, and this one reported in the American Journal of science in 2012, and this one also conducted in 2012 at Hamedan University of Medical Sciences, Iran. And this list of studies on google scholar, citing highly significant results compared with placebos. If only there were a study that the EMA agreed met the criteria, something like this:
“There is one publication proving efficacy for the indication “Premenstrual syndrome” for an extract
specified as follows: Vitex agnus-castus L. dry extract (6-12:1), extraction solvent: 60% ethanol
(m/m) / 20 mg per day corresponding to 180 mg drug per day on average. This preparation fulfils the
requirements for WEU.” European Medicines Agency Assessment report on Agnus Castus.
What would you do EMA, if you had all this research, alongside hundreds of women’s anecdotal accounts and clinicians testimonials?
Would you force manufacturers to reduce the dosage per tablet from 20mg (the known effective level a cited in your own report) to 4mg per tablet? But not tell women that at this dosage, the drug will be ineffective?
That would be madness, wouldn’t it? Why would you render a drug, as clearly effective as Agnus Castus, ineffective, by restricting dosage, making the treatment unaffordable for thousands of women, even if they did know to take 5 TABLETS A DAY(costing around £20 a week).
Who would this benefit? The women with PMT? The doctors who are treating these women, with the limited and often dangerous chemical or surgical solutions on offer?
No. A move such as this could only benefit the multi-million pound drugs industry, whom bring new drugs to the market with a short history of efficacy and lack of data on the long term side effects.
Restricting dosage on not just Agnus Castus, but a whole host of herbal treatments, such as St John’s Wort, is a conspiracy to keep the drug companies in huge profit and the public captive to their demands.
If you buy your tablets from Boots and take (the recommended) 4mg of Agnus Castus a day for PMS, it won’t work, your symptoms will not improve (your own report shows this to be the case). For women who buy these tablets and find no relief, they will believe the drug is ineffective and return to their gynaecologist begging them to take out their ovaries and womb (a huge decision, with huge repercussions). And gynaecologists, despite knowing how effective Agnus Castus 20mg is, will be unable to tell you about it, because it is not listed in their prescribing manual.
Because there are no profits to be made on a drug that already exists, is not concocted in a lab. No concoction. No patent. No profit.
“The pharmaceutical industry is in crisis because companies are rewarded for developing new drugs that have few clinical advantages over existing ones, experts say. They pointed to independent reviews that found between 85 and 90 per cent of all new drugs developed over the past 50 years have provided few benefits and considerable harms.” Read more here.
Forgive me if I sound a little paranoid with my conspiracy theory, but what else am I supposed to think? Either you recommend the drug or you don’t. Recommending it, as your reports final conclusion does:
“Except for severe allergic reactions, there are no documented severe adverse events. Therefore the
use of the above mentioned extracts – in combination with an adequate labelling as included in the
monograph- can be supported.” EMA report on Agnus Castus.
but rendering it ineffective, by only allowing it to be sold in a dose too low to work, smacks of underhand tactics.
If you have an honourable reason, then I for one would love to hear it. In the meantime, I will continue to tell every doctor I meet and every women with PMS, how Agnus Castus gave me my life back, and I will unashamedly plug this Guernsey based company, that can sell you 20mg tablets, despite your mean and sinister directive.
Any woman reading this, who has PMS, check the evidence out for yourself. Be empowered! Take control of your body. For the most common type of PMS, I have yet to find a woman this has not transformed the life of. However, you must take 20mg (dried fruit extract) a day.
Just think… no more mood swings, breast tenderness, irritable bowel, and no more pain so bad, you vomit and lose control of your bowels at the same time. No more lost days, lost months, lost sleep, lost life.
And my final message to the EMA – you should be ashamed of yourselves, condemning women to unnecessary medical interventions and possibly even death; very, very ashamed.
Juliet O’Callaghan – free of PMT for five years since taking Agnus Castus 20mg (dried fruit extract) once a day.
Anyone else found the EMA’s interference in herbal medicines has been detrimental to their health and pocket? Angus Castus: Has it worked for you to? Tell me your story. I would love to hear it.
Pole dancing classes, Fifty shades of grey – it seems stitched-up middle-class middle-England, might be, at last, coming undone. Not so, if the furore over a lap dancing club set to open in ‘posh’ ‘leafy’ Georgian town, Ampthill, is anything to go by.
As a resident of said town (actually it’s ‘chav’ neighbour, Flitwick), I have been following the story with a mild sense of amusement and a large dose of feminist angst. However, after being accosted in Waitrose car park to sign a petition against its opening, I began to realise the real victim in this is not the self styled Walt Disney, Lord John Shayler (the proprietor of the council approved lap dancing club), nor the tiger mothers of the ‘innocent’ Ampthill children.
“We’ll gather outside the strip club as a community with our children to switch on the Christmas lights; to sing carols; to sit outside eating our snacks waiting for the next ballet class down the road.” An Ampthill resident.
No. The real victim of this grudge fueled proposal, is the misrepresentation of sex.
Beautiful, glorious, life affirming SEX!
Sex is an innate drive, like thirst and hunger. Who you have sex with and at what age, has largely been determined by cultural norms and values, a bit like why we eat cereal for breakfast rather than roast beef. But sex in itself is not a bad or dirty thing.
However, exploitation of women is. While every woman knows she uses sex as a bargaining tool in her relationship armourey, even if this is subconscious, there is difference between that and others making profit from the exchange. Many women working in the sexual entertainment industry will argue they choose to work in clubs such as this, but what do we mean by choice, or in other words; what is free-will?
As women, we a brought up to use our femininity as a commodity. Sex sells everything from alcohol to zucchinis, but I wonder how many Ampthill parents would applaud their A-level student daughter, getting a Saturday job at the local lap dancing club, to save up for university.
I am not against a lap dancing club in Ampthill, I am against all forms of entertainment that exploit (for profit) the private sexual rituals between men and women. So, I do understand the objections raised by some Ampthill residents. This blog in particular, attempts to be measured and not fall into the trap of small minded bigotry, unlike some of the comments on this thread. But, this is a wider issue than a club opening in Ampthill. This is a deeper and broader issue that begins from when our daughters are born. It is about the messages they receive concerning who they are and what we value about them.
That’s what the Ampthillians need to be fighting against, the debasement of women, the world over. Sex is not the enemy here, sexist attitudes are. But just as Lord John Shayler is clearly not a feminist, then neither are the tiger mothers, leaping into action in Waitrose car park, who like the three wise monkeys, believe sex should be neither seen, heard, or spoken of.
Trying to shield our children from sex, is like trying to shutdown the internet. They are surrounded by sexual imagery, online; on TV; in music; magazines; newspapers. A lap dancing club in the centre of town is unlikely to have a catastrophic impact on their sexual identity, already, shaped and moulded by their multi-media existence. Lap dancing clubs are not, as far as I am aware, the gates of hell, from which you will never escape. They are bars where men can watch a woman dance and take her clothes of, or for an extra price, have her do the dance, dangling over his lap. Not something I would pay for, but hardly, Beelzebub running amok in the local primary school.
Instead of shielding our children from sex, we should be talking to them (age appropriate of course) about the rights to their own body. How they don’t have to touch, kiss or be cuddled by anyone they don’t want to be. How sexual feelings are normal and masturbation won’t make them blind. How having sex is a big step and one that most of us wish we had done differently. How sex is a wonderful and beautiful thing, when we do it with someone we really want to, and have feelings for.
Having a lap dancing club on the doorstep could prove advantageous. A daytime visit as part of the PSHE sex education programme would provoke discussion about the uneasy role women and their bodies occupy in this product driven age. Young people want to talk about sex, relationships, and how they will negotiate their sexual identities. The recent sex education show at Redborne, was proof if any is needed that our teenagers are not ‘innocent’, if anything they are confused, unable to separate fact from myth. They need adult guidance.
Instead the naysayers condemn, sex, wonderful, incredible sex, with prudish indignation (confusing consensual acts such as swinging and bondage, with exploitative practices). Of course, the louder they protest, the closer Lord John Shayler gets towards making his rather childish insult a reality.
Maybe if there was more sex, not less – sex given freely, without profit, because its fun and perfectly natural– then clubs like this wouldn’t have customers in the first place.
Sex is not the enemy here, we would all do well to remember that.
Reflections from a Consultant Clinical Psychologist
"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." - As W. B. Yeats never said
My views on Teaching & Education
Writer. Believer in the positive power of prison libraries. Managing editor of Forge Literary Magazine. Creative writing teacher.
Medical journalist Jerome Burne investigates...
Moving back to Australia after ten years living overseas
Writing about writing. Mostly.
sexuality, research methods, social justice