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Science
AM I NORMAL?
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PROGRAMME INFO
Tuesdays 14 November - 12 December 2006, 21.00-21.30
(Repeated Wednesdays at 16.30)

Most of us want to fit in. When it comes to our health or state of mind, we ask ourselves and our doctors “am I normal” hoping for a positive response.

In this series, Vivienne Parry finds out how the doctors decide who’s in the normal box and who’s not when it comes to cancer, madness, metabolism, autism and drinking.

And if you don't fit into the normal box, are you in need of medical treatment, or are you just different?

Find out more about series one of Am I Normal?

Find out more about series three of Am I Normal?

Find out more about series four of Am I Normal?

Find out more about series five of Am I Normal?
 
Find out more about the latest series of Am I Normal?

Cartoon with phrase "Are you normal? No!"

Programme 1 - Cancer

Is it normal for us to have cancer? Public opinion might be that cancer is abnormal, but medical professionals disagree.

Testing and screening is becoming more sensitive, picking up abnormal cancerous cells that may never develop into a life threatening disease. 

We’re all living longer and cancer is a normal part of the ageing process.

“If we all lived to be 200, we’d all have cancer” says Professor Karol Sikora of Imperial College London.

Related Links:

BBC Health pages on cancer
Cancer Research UK
Prostate Cancer Charity UK
Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity
Everyman Prostate Cancer Charity

Listen again Listen again to programme 1

Programme 2 - Madness

One in 10 of us has had a mad or psychotic experience at some time in our life.

We might briefly but passionately believe that we are Jesus, or think the television is talking directly to us. Mad thoughts certainly but do they make us mad?

Under extreme stress, we all suffer physically and mentally.  One in 4 of us will have a bout of madness. Most recover and life continues normally enough.

Does this make us mad - or normal?
 
Related links:

BBC Health page on Psychosis
What is Psychosis?
Centre for Recover in Severe Psychosis
Cannabis and Psychosis
Rethink

Listen again Listen again to programme 2

Programme 3 - Metabolism

What is a normal metabolism? Our thyroid controls our body temperature and therefore plays an important role in our metabolism.

The symptoms for an under-active thyroid are familiar to many of us – tiredness, lethargy, weight gain, dull skin and hair.

How does your GP determine whether they are due to the stresses and strains of busy lives or symptoms of hypo-thyroidism?

How do existing medical guidelines deal with the fact that we are all "uniquely hormoned", when what might be a "normal thyroid hormone level for you is not the case for someone else".

Related Links:

BBC Health pages on Thyroid
British Thyroid Foundation
British Thyroid Association

Listen again Listen again to programme 3

Programme 4 - Asperger Syndrome and Autism

Ten times more children are diagnosed with autism or Asperger syndrome than 40 years ago.

Is it because we’re better at spotting thsee conditions, are they more widespread or have the goalposts moved?

More children and adults with less obvious autistic characteristics are now being labelled as such. This may help those affected to access support and can lead to greater understanding from others.

At the same time, everybody wants to fit in.

Related links:

BBC Health page on Autism
BBC Health page on Autism and Asperger Syndrome
What is autism?
What is Asperger syndrome?
Advocacy for Education helpline service
Prospects

Listen again Listen again to programme 4

Programme 5 - Alcohol

Britain is a nation of drinkers. We now drink twice as much alcohol as 50 years ago, with scant regard to the recommended intake.

As our love of alcohol increases so does the rates of chronic liver disease, many types of cancer, strokes and damage to the brain.

The government focuses on the drinking problems of young people who visibly binge at the weekend. But health professionals believe so-called “normal” older drinkers are exceeding safe limits.

And what’s normal when you’re in your 20s is too much in your 60s, when your body can’t metabolise the alcohol as efficiently.

Vivienne Parry looks at the impact of drinking a couple of glasses of wine with a meal, and a few more at the Christmas party. She asks “Is my drinking normal?”, and if it is normal – is it wise?

BBC Health page on alcohol
Professor Ian Gilmore – Royal College of Physicians
Professor Mary Gilhooly
Professor Colin Drummond
Professor Moira Plant –Univ of UWE
Professor Jim Horne
AA website

Listen again Listen again to programme 5
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