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How Stirling research is fighting cancer | World Cancer Day

Saturday 4th February 2017 is World Cancer Day – a day where the world comes together in unity in the fight against cancer. Here’s how Stirling research is helping to accelerate progress in the fight against cancer. Investigating carcinogens in astro football pitches In 2016, Professor Andrew Watterson identified cancer-causing chemicals in rubber crumb samples from 3G astro football…

via How Stirling research is fighting cancer | World Cancer Day — University of Stirling

Cancer and exercise do mix

“When you hear the word “cancer” probably the last thing that you think of is physical activity. In fact, most of us think of cancer as a death sentence. Treatments for cancer make many people feel lousy and the side effects of treatment include fatigue, anxiety, nausea, vomiting and pain. So it is hardly surprising that people who are diagnosed with cancer are not reaching for their running shoes or gym kit.”

Read Dr Gill Hubbard’s full article Cancer and exercise do mix in The Conversation.
19 October 2016

Can talcum powder really cause ovarian cancer?

Photo of Professor Andrew Watterson

Professor Andrew Watterson

Professor Andrew Watterson writes in The Conversation:

The debate about whether or not talcum powder causes ovarian cancer has rumbled on for decades. However, it recently reached fever pitch after a US court awarded damages to the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer, allegedly as a result of having used talc as a feminine hygiene product for many years. Does that mean women should avoid using talcum powder? What does the science say?

Read the full article here.

Teenage Cancer Trust: Cancer Education sessions can help to save lives – University of Stirling Research

Basic CMYK“Research demonstrating the value and impact of our vital education work has been published in Pycho-Oncology, the Journal of Psychological, Social and Behavioural Dimensions of Cancer.

“Last year, Teenage Cancer Trust and the Scottish government’s Detect Cancer Early Programme commissioned research into the impact of educating young people about cancer. The research was evaluated by The University of Stirling concluded that our school-based cancer education sessions are an effective and impactful way to improve awareness of the signs of cancer in young people, improve knowledge of cancer prevention, and improve communication about cancer.”

Check out the full story on their web page:

1 December 2015

Me, Anthony Nolan and compassion: Ian writes of the importance of kindness, support and sherry trifle

Photo of Ian Spencer

Ian Spencer

A simple stretch one morning over Christmas 2008 and there it was, a lump on the neck.

What do you think to yourself? Cancer? Hodgkin’s Lymphoma? A continuing battle to get rid of it? A year of chemotherapy? Four different chemotherapy regimes, two outpatient and two inpatient? Permanent lung damage from the chemo, hospitalisation due to lung damage, pneumonia and parvovirus, a dozen or so CT and PET scans, seemingly endless blood transfusions followed by seemingly endless venesections, needles after needles after needles, hair loss (twice), visits to five different hospitals? All to no effect?

Can you imagine waiting to see a doctor at the Beatson to find out whether their weekly review of patients decided to give you a stem cell transplant or not – effectively a death sentence? Then good news from the Beatson, followed by more chemo, an allogeneic stem cell transplantation, a month of desolation in the Beatson and five years of battling to feel well?

Do you think of all the people you need to thank? The person who saw fit to register with the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Trust. I had never even given blood, though as an active gay man the NHS never wanted it. Somebody thought about helping a stranger.  Mo, one of the many nurses who, during a month long stay at the Beatson, brightened every day delivering “two and a coo” (that’s tea with two sugars and milk) and words of comfort and support. Keeping a stranger fighting the battle because she cares. The support of all the countless nurses (Julie, Zoe, Jo etc.) and doctors keeping me ticking over while my body healed and grew strong. Why? Because it was their job? Because they care for others. All that they did for a complete stranger.

All friends and neighbours of Doune who cleaned the house, sorted the garden, supplied meals and gave encouragement (Kate, Joan, Helen etc.), Mags and Robert for all the hugs, Addy for ferrying me to and from hospitals, for shopping, for helping me up the stairs to bed, for tucking me in!!!, for being THE reason I carried on?

Or do you think, damn, that lump is going to hinder my “pick up routine”, and ooh, cold cuts and sherry trifle for boxing day lunch round a cosy log fire?

For me, thinking about cold cuts and trifle won, for that day at least. The lump gets seen to when I get back home. Some worry themselves, waiting to see a doctor. Horses for courses I suppose. I believe it was that kind of attitude, and the unbelievable support and kindness of friends and specialists that helped me from 2009 to today, and gave me six more years of life, so far. More years to “cause a whole lot trouble” before the last Christmas is over and no more sherry trifle left.

This is my cancer story. Still being written as you read. Many more chapters to write. New characters to meet, new storylines, more drama, more horror, more action and adventure but, most of all, more comedy, slapstick and farce. A mix of “Carry on Matron”, “You Only Live Twice”, and “Priscilla Queen of the Desert”. Because of all that help and support, I’m trying to give back, by helping recruit people to the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Register and raise money for McMillan Cancer nurses. Give them a click and help save a life like mine.

Thanks to you all.

Ian Spencer
Anthony Nolan bone marrow recipient
10 November 2015

Ten deadly carcinogens (you’ve probably never heard of)

Photo of Professor Andrew Watterson

Professor Andrew Watterson

Professor Andrew Watterson writes in The Conversation

“Bad news for bacon butty lovers and barbecue afficionados. The World Health Organisation now deems bacon, sausage – and other processed meats – a serious cancer risk.

“With more than 14m new cancer cases occurring around the world each year and more than 8m cancer deaths a year, carcinogens certainly merit serious attention. Asbestos, diesel exhaust fumes, radiation in various forms, nightshift work, tobacco and alcohol are all well-known causes of cancer, but there are lots more besides, including several you may never have heard of.”

Read the full article here.

Does fracking cause cancer and infertility?

Professor Andrew Watterson writes in The Conversation:

“It can be hard to know what to believe when it comes to fracking safety. Campaigners against the controversial oil and gas drilling technique say it can contaminate water supplies, pollute local air and cause dangerous earthquakes. But the fossil fuel industry contradicts these claims by pointing to reports that the risks can be managed and fracking operations set up safely.”

Read the full article here:

26 October 2015

For most work-related cancers, you have a 1% chance of state compensation

Photo of Professor Andrew Watterson

Professor Andrew Watterson

Prof Andrew Watterson writes in The Conversation:
For most work-related cancers, you have a 1% chance of state compensation

Cancer Care Pathways – A Directorate for cancer patients and their families

Danika Marmara

Danika Marmara

In Malta the number of cancer incidence as well as experiences and feedback from patients and relatives has motivated the new Cancer Care Pathways Directorate to plan models of care to achieve a more positive impact across cancer services.

Around 2000 new cases of cancer are registered yearly in the Maltese Islands. The average number of male cancer cases per year is 944, while 964 females are diagnosed yearly with cancer. On average, the most common cancer sites by incidence for males include the prostate, lung, colorectum and urinary bladder, while those cancer sites ranked highest by incidence for females are namely breast, colorectal, uterus and lung cancers.

The Director of Cancer Care Pathways Directorate, Ms. Danika Marmara,is reading for a PhD in Health and Cancer Care at the University of Stirling. She leads this innovative Cancer Care Pathways Directorate and is working on aspects of care to offer support, guide and help increase access to care for cancer patients. As part of its pathway, aspects of patient needs must be continuously explored as cancer has several implications towards family life, social life and consequently society in general.

Aim of the Cancer Care Pathways Directorate

Cancer Care spans the whole patient pathway from screening or initial referral for a symptom to cancer diagnosis to cancer treatment followed by survivorship, palliative care or end-of-life to improve patient experiences and outcomes across the patient journey. On an organisational level, it aims to illustrate patient flows through the different phases of the cancer care pathways for various cancer patients with the aim of identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the current service provision and improve cancer pathways.

In this regard, this directorate has commenced work on the following aspects:

  • Identifying gaps in services and improve care coordination for cancer patients and their families to improve quality and timely care;
  • Improving communication and networking between various organisations/hospitals/entities such as Primary Care, Screening programme, Mater Dei Hospital, Oncology services and NGOs;
  • Research audits have commenced to provide evidence regarding cancer pathways and timelines for breast and colorectal pathways to provide direction for implementing carecoordination and other service improvements to achieve a better and optimised cancerjourney experience;
  • Improving coordination of Palliative patients;
  • Improving patient information in the treatment stage and any other information gaps in cancer services;
  • Identifying survivorship issues through patient needs post-treatment. This research work and patient feedback shall provide a basis for the vision of the New National Cancer Plan starting 2016;
  • Identifying barriers to screening programmes to increase uptake rates.

Ms. Danika Marmara has recently spearheaded a working group entitled ‘Tailored Information in Cancer Care’ (TICC). This working group has developed cancer treatment booklets for breast, colorectal, early prostate and primary lung cancers. These booklets are the first set of written resources involving a multidisciplinary team approach in the treatment stage of the cancer journey, a stage where previously local tailored information was lacking for different cancer types. From feedback received from the healthcare professionals and patients alike, these booklets have been identified as offering clear, well-written and patient-friendly information that will be used to complement verbal information by the patient’s medical team. More work is in progress in Malta to develop resources where patient needs are being identified.

Ms Marmara can be contacted by email:

The importance of talking about Smoking in the context of Cancer

Photo of Prof Mary Wells

Professor Mary Wells

Our recent research highlights the importance of understanding the multiple factors which influence continued smoking in people affected by cancer.  It also shows that engaging patients and families in discussion about smoking within the context of a cancer diagnosis is acceptable, but that an individualised and integrated approach to smoking cessation across the whole cancer journey is needed.

Research evidence illustrates the value of cessation for patients’ treatment outcomes, survival and future health.  Last month we held two public engagement sessions in Dundee as part of the NMAHP Research Unit’s CSO-funded ‘Cancer & Smoking Cessation Study’.  Over the past 18 months this has been exploring key factors likely to increase uptake of smoking cessation services among families, within the context of a recent cancer diagnosis.  Researchers Tricia Aitchison and Fiona Harris have conducted more than 65 in-depth interviews with patients, relatives and health professionals in Tayside and Forth Valley.

The ‘Talking about smoking and cancer: Help us design better services’ sessions brought together a range of people.  Participants included consultant oncologists, cancer nurse specialists, radiographers, smoking cessation advisors, charity representatives and health promotion staff – as well as a small number of patients and family members who had taken part in interviews for the study.  An advert had also been placed in the local Courier newspaper to invite members of the public to attend.

The aim of the public engagement sessions was not only to present key findings from the study but also to provide opportunity for participants to suggest, discuss and evaluate ideas for future interventions.  Three short, 10-minute presentations on study findings were followed by small group discussions facilitated by members of the study Steering Group.

The presentations were:

  • Talking About Smoking: What patients, family members and health professionals bring to conversations about smoking in the context of cancer;
  • Moving from talking about smoking to doing something about it: What happens next? and
  • What opportunities are there for intervention and what might these look like?

They certainly seemed to stimulate lots of talking and interaction within the groups!

Our study findings highlight that potential opportunities for talking to patients and families about smoking may often be missed by healthcare professionals.  There was consensus among the participants at our event that barriers to discussing and addressing smoking need to be overcome so that patients are given effective cessation advice and support throughout their care journey.

Professor Mary Wells, University of Stirling, School of Health Sciences
4 February 2015