Doctor, doctor

My sister is in hospital with an MRSA infection and is being barrier nursed. Can I visit her? Will procedures be in place so visitors won't be infected?

By all means write to her, but don't complicate things for her and for the hospital by trying to visit. A short period of isolation to ensure that the infection is cured and to prevent others from carrying it is a small concession to make. Your sister will surely understand.

I had breast cancer three years ago, and so far I'm clear of recurrence. Please tell me my true chances of it returning - I really want to know, and no one wants to tell me.

I can only quote statistics, because I don't know the stage and malignancy of your particular tumour. And the statistics relate to survival rates in the past, not now or in the future, so the following figures are probably an overestimate of recurrence rates. Today, for example, the 20-year survival rate from breast cancer is better than the five-year survival rate in 1980. The average recurrence rate when a woman has been clear for two years after surgery is less than 1% a year for the first 10 years. That is odds of 100 to one against, each year. It may be even less after that, but we don't know yet. The latest advice is to have a regular mammogram, preferably every two years (The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recommends three, but that may be too long an interval), and to have direct access to a named breast-care nurse or doctor in between times.

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