How the ‘poo machine’ became enlisted in the fight against bowel cancer

Posted November 07, 2017 17:47:11

Pathologists in Hobart have enlisted a notorious piece of artwork by a Belgian concept artist to help them in the battle against bowel cancer.

Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) is home to Cloaca Professional — also known as the poo machine.

The large assembly of hanging vessels connected by tubes is the work of Belgian conceptual artist Wim Delvoye, which was unveiled at MONA’s Berriedale location, north of Hobart, in 2010.

Specially commissioned by MONA’s founder David Walsh, Cloaca replicates the gastroenterological journey food takes, beginning at mastication and ending several hours later in defecation, complete with the authentic smell.

Visitors to MONA are invited to view the “feeding” twice a day, where a staff member places small portions of food into a receptacle where it is ingested, slowly passing through a range of processes before it emerges at the other end of the machine as faecal matter, daily about 2:00pm.

Today, Cloaca’s afternoon effort was screened for bowel cancer to demonstrate the simplicity of the test, which most Australians over 50 have had posted to them as part of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

The test involves analysing a small sample for the presence of microscopic amounts of blood, not visible to the naked eye, with follow-up testing occurring depending on the results.

Pathologist Daniel Owens said 60 per cent of people who had received a screening kit in the mail were yet to complete and return it.

“Potentially people are going undiagnosed with significant bowel disease,” Dr Owens said.

About 4,000 Australians die every year of bowel cancer, and Tasmania has the highest death rate, losing 150 people to the disease every year.

Dr Owens said the screening kits would significantly reduce that rate by catching it early.

“Once people get their head around turning into the toilet and putting the stick into the poo they’ll realise it’s very simple and very easy,” he said.

“There’s a yuck factor about dealing with poo but we have to deal with that every day so we need to just do it and get on with it.”

The choice of the poo machine was deliberate, with the campaign going under the hashtag of #justpooit.

The event, a joint effort between the Tasmanian Committee of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia, with support from MONA, the Tasmanian Cancer Council and Tasmanian Cancer Screening Services, was devised to attract as much attention as possible to encourage participation in the “potentially life-saving program”.

Topics: arts-and-entertainment, mens-health, health, health-policy, bowel-and-rectal-cancer, berriedale-7011

Original clown doctor returns to his mime roots

Posted November 04, 2017 10:00:00

Jean-Paul Bell has spent the past couple of decades entertaining children and the elderly in health care facilities.

But at the age of 66, he is returning to the stage and the brand of comedy he first fell in love with.

“I have the urge to go back to the boards, to my comic mime beginnings,” he told ABC Radio Sydney.

“Mime is a universal language.

“We need clowns in this world, and you see how people do it so badly — the current president of the United States [for example].

“You just need professionals to go out and take over again.”

Mr Bell has been an actor and comedian for more than 50 years.

He is most well known for co-founding the Humour Foundation and the Clown Doctors, which celebrated their 20th anniversary earlier this year.

Helping the elderly laugh

Mr Bell also co-founded and has been the creative director of the Arts Health Institute since 2011, which has focused on helping elderly people, particularly those living with dementia, to laugh.

He is stepping down from the role and was farewelled at an open event on Friday.

One insight he has gained from his work at the institute is how creative elderly people with dementia can be, especially with visual arts or dance.

“Dementia is a bit like the word cancer — everyone runs for the exit door or suddenly drops people who have been diagnosed with one or the other,” Mr Bell said.

“Life is meant to be lived and we very often abandon our loved ones into an institution like an aged care facility, without thinking that they still need to live their lives and to do something going forward.

“It’s not all about remembering what you once were or what you did. It’s about what you’re going to do tomorrow when you get up.”

The power of laughter

What Mr Bell will continue bringing to audiences in the next stage of his career is his belief in the healing power of laughter.

He is currently in the midst of preparing a new show called Just Desserts, which is more “vaudeville clown rather than circus clown”.

“I play a character called Astor Mascarpone and he’s definitely a boy of many desserts,” Mr Bell said.

“He’s very round and rotund … the epiphany of home entertainment.”

The “non-verbal” show will premiere at the Woodford Folk Festival on December 26.

Topics: comedy-humour, arts-and-entertainment, health, human-interest, sydney-2000

Linkin Park performs heartfelt farewell to Chester Bennington in tribute concert

Updated October 29, 2017 16:13:48

Linkin Park has performed an emotional show alongside dozens of other artists at the Hollywood Bowl to honour the band’s late lead vocalist, Chester Bennington.

Bennington was found dead in his California home on July 20 after taking his own life.

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His bandmates were joined by 30 other artists and bands, including Blink-182, Steve Aoki and members of Sum 41 and System Of A Down.

The concert was called Linkin Park Celebrates Life in Honour of Chester Bennington and was led by band mate Mike Shinoda.

“Doing this show is, I think, one of the hardest things we’ve ever decided to do, and I think you’re part of the only reason that we are able to even stand up here and do this,” he told the crowd.

Linkin Park said they planned to donate profits from the concert to the One More Light Fund, which supports charities that bring solar electricity kits to hospitals and health clinics without electricity.

“The fund will support Chester’s favourite Music for Relief program … for remote health clinics without electricity,” the fundraising page said.

“The fund will also shine a light on mental health; helping individuals and families coping with mental and emotional struggles.”

The concert was live-streamed and the band’s social media used the hashtag #MakeChesterProud.


Topics: depression, diseases-and-disorders, health, community-and-society, music, arts-and-entertainment, united-states

First posted October 29, 2017 15:55:14

‘You’re not alone,’ acclaimed actor Aaron Pedersen tells unpaid carers

Posted October 20, 2017 11:45:38

Aaron Pedersen has played well over 40 roles in his life — appearing in everything from Water Rats to Jack Irish, The Code and more recently Blue Murder.

But the role that has been his longest running has been as a carer to his younger brother Vinnie, who has cerebral palsy and mild intellectual disabilities.

For the past 40 years, the award-winning Indigenous actor and former ABC journalist has taught Vinnie how to tie his shoelaces, get dressed, brush his teeth as well as kick a footy and rap.

Vinnie travels with Aaron to nearly all his location shoots, including the Western Australia town of Kununurra, where the six-part TV series called Mystery Road is now being filmed.

“He’s the reason why I get up in the morning, he’s the reason why I go to work, why I believe in myself,” Aaron told ABC Radio Sydney.

“Every time I get home it’s a reality check.

“It’s repetitive and relentless … It is hard. When I was a lot younger I was struggling.”

Like any pair of siblings, Vinnie makes sure Aaron keeps his ego in check.

“He thinks I’m alright [at acting] but he thinks he’s much better,” the actor joked.

Carers need support

Aaron Pedersen is the ambassador for National Carers Week, which recognises the 2.7 million unpaid carers that dedicate 36 million hours every week to looking after loved ones.

“It’s clear that Australia counts on carers, so let’s show carers how much they count,” Carers Australia chief executive Ara Cresswell said.

“National Carers Week is also an opportunity to raise awareness of the issues faced by unpaid carers, without whom aged care and disability care would simply be unaffordable.”

Alan Gravolin, who was awarded New South Wales Carer of the Year this week, said it was important to look after your own health as much as the person you are caring for.

His wife Lyn, who is 76, was diagnosed with early onset dementia in her 50s and Alan cared for her full time until she was put into care.

“There is support for carers if you know where to go and are prepared to say, ‘yes I need help’,” Mr Gravolin said.

“If you don’t look after your own health, you get to a situation where you can’t look after the person you’re responsible for.

“It is significantly important that you make time for yourself, that you get good sleep, good diet and social outlets for yourself.”

Mr Gravolin has also been an active member of the community and is working with the Law Reform Commissioner of NSW to ensure guidelines for dementia suffers is appropriate under the Guardianship Act.

Tell your story

Aaron also encouraged other carers to not be ashamed to reach out for support.

“Careers are important. They are the unsung heroes,” he said.

“I’ve always kept it quiet. I think we’re all like that.

“We don’t want to share our personal problems or personal journey, it’s too private — but we should be proud to be carers; it’s hard work, it’s true work, it’s unconditional love.

“Caring for carers is what is important … and don’t forget that you’re not alone.”

Topics: actor, film-movies, arts-and-entertainment, carers, community-and-society, disabilities, health, sydney-2000, australia

Silent discos giving dementia sufferers a bit of their groove back

Posted October 06, 2017 06:17:52

A silent disco usually invokes images of twenty-somethings raving to hard-core techno at a festival, but now dementia patients are donning the headphones to great success.

In a world first, silent discos are being used as dementia therapy in New South Wales and sufferers are reaping huge mental benefits.

With the sounds of The Andrews Sisters, Dean Martin, Elvis and occasionally a bit of Taylor Swift coming through their Bluetooth headsets, patients are transported through music and movement.

Agitation and frustration are common among those with dementia but after a session at the silent disco, patients feel far more settled and behavioural issues are reduced for the rest of the day.

The after-class effects are amazing, Moove and Groove program organiser Alison Harrington said.

“One lady who hardly ever speaks a word, for an hour after the class she was going around talking fluidly to everyone,” Ms Harrington said.

“This switches on pathways in the brain that aren’t otherwise accessible.

“Everyone comes out smiling.”

The power of headphones

However, when the event was tried without using headphones, participation, enjoyment and eye contact levels with the ‘DJ’ (group facilitator) were halved.

Dementia consultant Rose Rowlinson, who completed a trial on the patients, put this down to the fact that headphones provide a much more immersive experience.

“It helps them to focus, it’s like someone is talking right to them in their head,” Ms Rowlinson said.

“There’s no distraction when wearing headphones and a lot of people with dementia get really distracted by everyone else and what’s going on.

“The difference was remarkable, the level of engagement and the energy was so different without the headsets.”

How patients have taken to the concept of a quiet party is impressive, Ms Rowlinson said, as those with dementia are not normally able to follow instructions for extended periods of time or show signs of happiness and calm.

But extensive research has proven the power of music in helping those with dementia, as distant memories and feelings are often recollected, even if only for a moment.

“It can bring them into a much happier space,” Ms Rowlinson said.

“Certain people who have really bad anxiety which was really noticeable beforehand became much more relaxed.

“There is also less likelihood of sundowning.”

The only problem encountered was calling last songs.

“They didn’t want to stop…they were really disappointed to stop,” she said.

‘We don’t know how long we’ve got’

Ray McDermott has moderate dementia and he and his wife Kay decided to put their dancing shoes on at Narrabeen’s RSL ANZAC Village in Sydney’s north.

“Kay suggested I sort of get off the couch and do a little bit of exercise and [we say] ‘come on, let’s go and enjoy ourselves’,” Mr McDermott said.

“I was a little bit apprehensive, thought I’m going to get swamped by the ladies… but I’ve absolutely enjoyed myself.”

Ms McDermott said her husband gets swept up in the experience and gets out of his head.

“He has a ball, he really does…he sings at the top of his voice,” she said.

“He just completely forgets all the troubles that can worry us.”

Mr McDermott said the opportunity to really let go to the music gives the couple satisfaction.

“We don’t know how long we’ve got together… but we come here and enjoy ourselves,” he said.

Ms Harrington said the idea of a silent disco seemed far-fetched and she had no idea whether it would work — but the risk has definitely paid off.

“This is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done,” she said.

“We need to change the paradigm of people ageing.”

She is hoping to expand the concept of silent discos for dementia patients and travel to more facilities to bring musical memories back.

This week the NSW Government announced a funding boost for the silent discos for dementia under the Liveable Communities Grant program.

Topics: alzheimers-and-dementia, health, human-interest, dance, music, nsw

Julia Louis-Dreyfus reveals she has breast cancer

Updated September 29, 2017 05:39:56

Emmy-winning comedic actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus has announced that she was battling breast cancer and highlighted the case for universal healthcare.

Louis-Dreyfus, 56, who plays foul-mouthed fictitious US president Selina Meyer on HBO’s Veep, said “1 in 8 women get breast cancer. Today, I’m the one,” in a short post on her social media platforms.

“The good news is that I have the most glorious group of supportive and caring family and friends, and fantastic insurance through my union.

“The bad news is that not all women are so lucky, so let’s fight all cancers and make universal health care a reality,” the actress wrote.

She did not give any further details of her health status.

Louis-Dreyfus won a record sixth Emmy award for comedy actress for her role as Meyer earlier this month.

She became famous in the early 1990s for her role of Elaine on Seinfeld, which won her several awards.


Topics: television, arts-and-entertainment, breast-cancer, diseases-and-disorders, health, united-states

First posted September 29, 2017 05:16:12

Heath Ledger’s father calls for more awareness in wake of rising drug deaths

Posted September 27, 2017 19:21:29

The father of late actor Heath Ledger says a dramatically increasing rate of drug-related deaths in Australia “doesn’t surprise” him and has called for more education on the potential dangers of prescription medication.

Drug-related deaths hit the highest point since the 1990s last year, Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data shows, and the majority of those were caused by prescription medication.

Kim Ledger, a founding patron of advocacy group Scriptwise who has been raising awareness of addiction since his son’s death in 2008, said a lack of understanding of the dangers of prescription drugs was behind a number of deaths.

“The worst thing is that most of the people taking these drugs will not know the downside of mixing medications. And this is what’s creating a number of deaths,” he told the ABC.

“Most people have no idea that prescription medication can lead to deaths.”

The overwhelming majority of drug-related deaths in 2016 were accidental, the ABS said, and were most commonly associated with prescription medications benzodiazepines (anxiety medication) or oxycodone (painkiller).

‘You can get addicted in a matter of days’

A person dying from a drug-induced death in 2016 was most likely to be a middle-aged male, living outside of a capital city in a country area.

“A typical scenario can be the person who has had either an industrial accident or a motorcar accident, and they spent some time in hospital — it could be as little as a torn muscle but could be some sort of tragic injury,” Mr Ledger explained.

“And then during the process of repatriation they’ll be issued up prescription painkiller, and it’s these painkillers that if not wary of them, you can become addicted in a very short space of time — a matter of days in some cases.”

Patients then get “hooked on the highs” that the drugs are giving them, and then find themselves addicted when they leave the hospital.

“They then start mixing — they get whatever they can from a doctor, and if one doctor doesn’t issue what they want, they’ll travel to another doctor and get more of the same or something different,” Mr Ledger said.

Mr Ledger has called for a real-time monitoring system to prevent people doctor shopping, and said an education program similar to the anti-smoking Quit campaign could also help.

“It’s an addiction, it’s an illness, and you know there are so many different types of addiction,” he said.

“This one is no different except that you know the consequences of mixing some of these drugs affects people in in a variety of ways and you’re not to know when you’re taking a variety of these drugs whether they are actually going to put you to sleep or not because you have combined them with alcohol or sleeping tablets or something like that so that you can catch people out and it does.”

Topics: community-and-society, drugs-and-substance-abuse, actor, health, death, australia