External Representation & Cancer Biology Course

Robin was now representing the group on PACT – see previous talk. This is a group of patients and health professionals in the Wolverhampton area, trying to improve cancer care and has its own web site. This group was part of the Greater Midlands Cancer Network of six groups from different PCT’s including Stoke on Trent, Stafford, Shrewsbury & Telford, Dudley and Wyre Forest.

The different groups get together throughout the area to look at different types of cancer called Network Site Specific Groups. Robin was one of two patients representing Head & Neck Group which meets about six times a year.

So he could understand the professionals better, he had attended a one day Cancer Biology Course run at New Cross by Mr David Rowlands the chief cancer clinician who was a pathologist. Briefly; we first looked at slides showing what cancer looked like. We then considered the classification of tumours (or neoplasms). This looked at where the cancer was sited, its behaviour – whether it was benign or malignant, what sort of cell was affected, and grade – how similar it was to the original cells.

We then looked at how cancer spreads (Metastasis) which is often via the Lymph nodes. The amount the cancer has spread is called staging. This looks at the size and extent of the primary tumour – has it spread outside its original location? If so, how many lymph nodes are involved and has it taken hold anywhere else. The classification runs from 1 (best) to 4 (worst).

Next, we had a look around the pathology laboratory on how samples are taken and analysed, before returning to the classroom to learn about a normal cell growth cycle, and how this can mutate into cancer. Apart from random causes, the most common factors were chemicals, tobacco smoke, and radiation (X-rays or sunlight).