FROM BARD TO WARD Reading Shakespeare could give physicians a fresh insight into the links between emotion and illness, according to retired doctor Kenneth Heaton. He believes the Bard’s many descriptions of psychological illnesses could help modern medics diagnose conditions linked to emotional disturbance. Source: BBC
ALIEN MYSTERY Remains recently found in Peru that were said to belong to a triangular-headed alien could be those of a child with hydrocephalus. Peruvian website RPP claims experts found something that “isn’t human” but sceptics say the ancient practice of head-binding and a naturally-occurring craniofacial deformity could explain the over-sized skull. Source: io9.com
EMERGENCY DISCO Using a disco beat to guide you during CPR is no better than no music at all, an Emergency Medicine Journal study found. Bee Gees classic Stayin’ Alive is the theme for the British Heart Foundation’s latest CPR campaign but while such tunes help maintain a rate of 100 compressions a minute, they don’t encourage the correct depth of 5 to 6cm.
FASTER, STRONGER Male orthopaedic surgeons have greater intelligence and grip strength than their male anaesthetic counterparts, a study in the BMJ has found. Researchers set out to test the popular saying that ortho surgeons are “as strong as an ox but half as bright”.
Pick: DVD – The Skin I Live In WHAT ARE WE LOOKING AT?
Stumped? The answer is at the bottom of the page
Directed by Pedro Almodóvar, starring Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Marisa Paredes; 2011
ROBERT Ledgard (Banderas) takes the stereotypical image of a plastic surgeon to extremes in this challenging film from one of Spain’s finest directors. Suave, wealthy, with slicked-back hair, a BMW in the driveway and an unhealthy obsession with sculpting a woman in the image of his dead wife, Ledgard takes narcissism to new extremes.
Haunted by personal tragedies, the surgeon tosses bioethical concerns aside in his quest to develop a new form of artificial skin that doesn’t burn or scar
using transgenesis techniques involving animals.
The threat of violence is ever-present as Ledgard’s surgical patient, Vera, reluctantly submits to his increasingly twisted demands and the film surges through themes of loss, passion, fantasy, escape and madness. It is Banderas’ understated performance as the grief-stricken, obsessed surgeon that keeps this compelling film grounded, even through some of its more bizarre turns.
Almodóvar’s disturbing film, with its shocking twist, will not be to all tastes but is surely one most surgeons would be intrigued to see.
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Book Review: The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddartha Mukherjee
Fourth Estate; £9.99
Review by Dr Anne Parfitt-Rogers, FY1 doctor at Crosshouse Hospital, Kilmarnock
IN 2010, an estimated seven million people died of cancer worldwide, with countless more
affected by the disease. As oncologist and professor Siddhartha Mukherjee writes, this is “a story that has to be told”. The book opens with Carla Reed, a Massachusetts kindergarten teacher who,
aged 30, is struck by an aggressive form of leukaemia. The story of her gruelling treatment is interwoven with an account of the complex history of the disease itself. From the Persian Queen Atossa, who ordered a servant to excise her breast tumour with a knife, the book describes advances in the understanding and treatment of cancer over the past 4,000 years. Central to this history is the pioneering
work of Dr Sidney Farber, who developed antifolate chemotherapy in the 1950s, and his collaboration with Mary Lasker, a philanthropic American who was instrumental in the creation of the National Cancer Institute. It also describes advances such as Doll and Hill’s landmark smoking study, the advent of mammography and the use of bone marrow transplantation to keep pace with an ever- evolving disease.
No book about cancer can dodge that big question – when will we find a cure? While no one can know for sure, Mukherjee is hopeful for the future, citing recent developments including gene therapy and vast improvements
in multidisciplinary care. An interview with the author gives a
fascinating insight into the highs and lows of oncology, including the value of communication and the heartbreak of breaking bad news. Mukherjee describes the impact on his own life, from fitting the writing around evenings with family, to harvesting his daughter’s umbilical cells as a resource for leukaemia research. And what of Carla’s story? In 1999, Mukherjee drove to her house with a bouquet of flowers to celebrate five years since her diagnosis – in oncology, almost tantamount to a cure – and asks how she survived the ordeal. “There was no choice,” she explains. “For someone who is sick, this is their new normal”. This is a compelling, elegantly-written book which holds the reader’s attention and leaves you better informed about a wide variety of aspects within oncology. Primarily aimed at patients, it is easily readable, while still providing a significant amount of depth. For doctors, it will enhance your treatment of patients and enrich your view of medicine.
PHOTO: THE KOBAL COLLECTION
PHOTO: SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
WHAT ARE WE LOOKING AT? SEM of intestinal papillomas
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