Thursday, 10 October 2013

White Coats and Cancer Research...




They say a bad apple don’t fall far from the tree as a way of explaining away the behaviour of an individual, but is every seed within that apple bad as well? My day today has been built up of questions and more question. I was lucky enough to take a tour round the ICU on Fulham road. Breakthrough breast cancer had invited me last year to tour this cancer research facility. The minute they mentioned laboratory and tour they caught my attention. And I would recommend/encourage everyone to take up the chance if offered.


When I arrived there were several people I recognised from when I did the Westminster Fly in a year ago, so I did not feel like a Billy-no-mates. I listened intently to the introduction with every bit of information projected onto a white wall. At the end the man who had outlined statistics and aims of ICU and Breakthrough asked if anyone had any questions. I for once remained silent whilst one young woman asked the one and only question to do with the 40 year generation study program currently running. My soul aim of being there was to speak to the Lab technicians. 


As we were all gathered into our relevant groups (mine was the black group ha-ha!) and each group taken to their relevant starting point of their tour I began to get all excited because now I was in an environment where I could finally clear some of the if’s, what’s and why’s up.  


I was one of only a few who was still on treatment for cancer, and I had been festering on knitty, gritty details for too long. Now don’t get me wrong they cannot diagnose and dissect my case, but I can throw questions like no other when I get going. 


First stop was to see fruit flies in test tubes. Why fruit flies? Well they have a shorter life span which means there cells are on a faster growth rate. What have fruit flies got to do with cancer? Well flies cells can be manipulated to get a form of cancer, but because they have a simpler and faster cell growth they can use what results they achieve and compare them too certain mammal cells. To sum it up on how I understand science. All life starts from one point and that is one cell. By manipulating that cell whether it be a fly or mammal cell its aims remain the same until its instructions for whatever reason mutate. Looking at how they change eye colour and size of eyes by stopping certain receptors within a cell down a microscope was fascinating for me. Sorry guys I worked in a museum and I was just as enthusiastic when fresh discoveries were brought in.


Second stop off point got even more interesting because we were discussing cancer cells and how they were researching blockers. They mark each cell from nucleus out and monitor its behaviour comparing notes continually with labs that have the same batch of cancer cells growing. They were closely monitoring in particular metastatic cancer cells because these cells cancer adapt from breast to liver or lung, not all cancer cells can do this. My questioning was focused on the diabetic type two debate and whether there was a connection? They spoke of how they used glucose to grow cancer cells, so it was only a matter of time before I asked. Anyone who has followed my blog would understand my interest because I am type 2. The reply I received was well we are in the middle of the 40 year generation program which is looking at genetic, environment impact and it’s implication on breast cancer. From listening to the lab technicians I came to the conclusion that until the 40 years is up there is no answer only what if’s. Then I asked is there any way I could donate my cells to the ICU lab? They said that everyone goes to one source for samples which makes it easier to compare with other lab results on that particular batch.


Our third stop off point was to explain how cancer cells spread.  By using healthy cells that create veins lab technicians are able to create a path way for the rebellious adaptable cancer cells to have free roam within the confinement of a dish. They then showed us on speeded time how placing a scratch within a dish these cells adapt fast. Like a pack of octopuses out of water the cancerous tentacles reach out until the scratch that divided them is no more. They spoke of the HER2 and its importance on blocking growth. Then I asked if a man was hit between his legs and it causes scarring could he develop testicular cancer? The answer was yes and no, we cannot say for sure, but we believe there is a possibility we cannot rule out. Then I said ok. Then I said well this is actually leading to a more important question. You see two years before I was diagnosed with DCIS I was breast feeding and my child refused to feed off my left breast which happened to be the breast cancer was developing in. During my time breast feeding my left breast had developed mastitis and would continually block. Could the mastitis of scarred the ducts or become enflamed to create the right environment for cancer to develop? The possibility was there, but the cancer may have been there long before was their reply. 


Then we went to the final stop off point which was where the blood samples for the 40 year generation study program were being processed. The program is eight years in already, but it will take a further 32 years for this program to show some sort of comparisons or sense, but even then it could take a further ten years before those results reveal what others have pondered on. 


The truth of the matter is in 2030 the statically rate will of reached 70’000 and there is a drastic increase in women below 40 being diagnosed with breast cancer. The younger you are in developing breast cancer the more lightly you’re at risk of it becoming metastatic. The results are frightening for any young woman reading this, but the reality of a cancer journey was not meant to be easy. The only true way to beat cancer is to keep an open mind because 1-3 will develop cancer at some point in their life time. 


One thousand women do die of breast cancer in the UK each month that is fact, not fiction. All those deaths will be from a metastatic form of breast cancer, this also includes men. Isn’t it better to be pro-active rather than blind to your own body?  Developing a better understanding of how breast cancer could affect you could save your life? So people MOT... You would not climb into your car if it was knackered, so why ignore your body.
When in doubt shout, your life, your body no-one else can help you, until you speak out.

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