Dr Freddie Downes shares his experience of the National Sarcoma Awareness Project we fund.

In the United Kingdom, there are currently no designated modules on the undergraduate medical curriculum on sarcomas, and fewer than 20 designated centres treating sarcoma patients. Even in the designated sarcoma centres, only a few students get the opportunity to see sarcoma patients and work with experienced sarcoma clinicians. This results in many medical students graduating with little or no knowledge of sarcomas and even after graduation, the opportunities, time and desire to learn more about sarcomas are scarce.

To address this problem, a team at the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals Trust, led by Mr CR Chandrasekar, have been conducting a National Sarcoma Awareness Project since 2013, funded by the Bone Cancer Research Trust.

Freddie completed a week-long placement, shadowing a sarcoma specialist. We caught up with him to hear about what he made of the experience.

What inspired you to apply for the National Sarcoma Awareness Project?

As a student I had taken an interest in oncology after a course in cancer genetics and had actually become involved in a research project with a focus on sarcomas. I had been taught plenty about how other more common cancers develop and present but had limited opportunity to study sarcomas in great detail. This project allowed me to explore this set of diseases further and learn more about their management.

What was your understanding of sarcoma before you took part?

Whilst not being completely in the dark about the disease, my knowledge of sarcomas was fairly disjointed. I don’t know that if I saw a presenting patient that I would have been able to recognise the core symptoms and signs and tie them neatly into a diagnosis.

Could you tell us about your experience of the project?

A patient that I met that stood out in particular had unfortunately been diagnosed with chondrosarcoma. She had developed hip pain over several months when walking. When she discovered the diagnosis and what the treatment would entail she was, understandably, incredibly overwhelmed. The insidious nature of the disease and the harsh nature of treatment reinforced the educational value of this project so similar patients will be seen and managed as quickly as possible.

What do you think junior doctors should be most aware of with regard to sarcoma?

I think junior doctors, GPs and any others that may encounter these diseases need to recognize the main concerning symptoms or ‘red flags’ and know to refer suspicious cases to specialist centres rather than the local orthopaedic team.

To learn more about the symptoms of bone cancer, visit our information page.

The Bone Cancer Research Trust has committed to funding the National Sarcoma Awareness Project for a further year.

If you are a final year medical student or F1/F2 doctor interested in taking part, please contact sarcoma.awareness@rlbuht.nhs.uk with your name, designation and email contact. You will receive free e-learning resources and a link to the online questions .

The top scoring participants will be given the opportunity to take part in funded short term clinical fellowships at a regional sarcoma centre to further their knowledge on sarcomas.