The third Early Detection 2018 Annual Symposium took place at Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus in January this year. The symposium was attended by Tim Marple, a member of the KCSN, who was also a panel member for the question and answer session. Read Tim’s kidney cancer patient story here.

Here is Tim’s report on the event:

Although I was on a panel for the experts to ask questions of, there were several very interesting speeches made by clinicians and scientists in the field of cancer research. I must admit that as a layman they were difficult to understand, but non-the-less, I did pick up the following.

Early detection, whilst being a great move forward, also has its problems. Years ago, particularly in lung cancer, images of 2-3 cm tumours were easy to look at and confirm the diagnosis. However, with CT scans getting more detailed, doctors can now see 1 mm masses. However, they are unable to diagnose such small masses or carry out biopsies, so a ‘watch and wait’ system is adopted for these very small tumours. Also, there is now research going on because they are finding what they thought were secondary cancers after treatment are actually new ones in their own right. Also, using new techniques, scientists are developing a breath test that could pave the way to early diagnosis for some cancers.

Liver cancer was perhaps the most complicated cancer to understand. It is apparent that African and Asian countries have the highest rate of liver cancer. There seems to be evidence that in China some cases of liver cancer my be attributed to the old fashioned Chinese herbal medications.

In both liver and lung cancer there is a direct link to smoking and drinking, with lifestyle also playing a part.

The patient panel had myself with kidney cancer, 2 men with prostate cancer, and one man with throat cancer. Questions were asked from the seminar in an open debate. It was evident that early detection had played a significant part in our success stories. It was interesting that we were all male, and that it had been our female partners that had sent us to the doctors. Not very technical, but I suspect there is a message there somewhere!

I was asked about the confidentiality of letting employers know about detection of cancer. Unfortunately, all of the patients on the panel had retired before diagnosis. I told them of my concerns relating to the wait for scan results. They seemed shocked that 8 weeks was my normal waiting time to get results. So then stress was discussed, because waiting for results can be stressful.

There was certainly the belief amongst everyone there that early detection had benefited patients, and with new research always underway through specific grants and partnerships, they actually feel that great strides are now being made, even to the point where micro cameras can go into the body to identify tumours early. It was then announced that a tender for a new purpose-built cancer hospital with a hotel attached is being planned for 2022 on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus. This will provide a base for scientists and treatment all under one roof.

We then made our way home and took 2 hours to do 10 miles on the M11. But sometimes you have to put life into perspective and shrug your shoulders.


Read the conference report on the Cancer Research UK website here

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