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Seeing Cancer from the Patient's Perspective

Tumour Board

The simulation of the "Tumour Board", a collaborative consultation held routinely by the medical specialists responsible for a patient´s care. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

The IAEA´s 2010 Scientific Forum focuses on improving cancer control and care in the developing world. To find effective solutions, the Forum takes an interactive, cross-disciplinary approach that encourages doctors, public health experts, and government officials to actively discuss strategies to stop the cancer epidemic in the developing world.

Sparking discussion, a cancer care simulation was presented on the Forum´s first day. Developed as a teaching tool in medical training, the simulation provides the audience an opportunity to see cancer care from the doctors´ and patients´ perspective. This technique also allows the audience to follow a course of therapy that would normally unfold over fifteen years in less than 30 minutes. In this case, a "Tumour Board" was simulated. The "Tumour Board" is a collaborative consultation held routinely by the medical specialists responsible for a patient´s care. They consult to ensure that the best possible treatment is provided. Radiologists, nuclear medicine specialists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, pathologists and oncologists from Brazil, Canada, Singapore, South Africa and Sweden played their "real-life" roles in simulating the care and counselling of a breast cancer patient.

Following the simulation, the audience shared their appraisals and experience. They emphasized that in most developing countries trained medical specialists, equipment, and the supporting infrastructure are lacking. Due to severe shortages in equipment and trained personnel, patients die while waiting for the care they need. While demonstrating vividly the complexities of cancer care, the tumour board also illustrated how an entire system of care must be developed to successfully treat a cancer epidemic. The Forum reiterated frequently the need for additional coordination and resources to be able to set such an infrastructure in place.

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-- By Peter Kaiser, IAEA Division of Public Information