The High School Cancer Masterclasses (HSCM) is an educational outreach program bringing high-quality cancer teaching to Australian high school students.
The program consolidates and extends beyond the usual Year 10 science curriculum to help students develop a foundational understanding of cancer.
There are 5 masterclasses in the program, which runs over 8 weeks in Term 3. Each masterclass runs for 90 minutes and covers a specific area of study from the ACHSC's Cancer Syllabus. The Syllabus has been developed with help from leading University of Melbourne academics and mentors. Students are then invited to sit a Cancer Competition paper held in Week 2, Term 4.
QAHS has been involved in this initiative since 2018, whereby we have successfully taken out the top positions, each year sending two QAHS Year 10 students to a summer holiday internship at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute in Heidelberg, Victoria.
"The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) estimates that 1 in 2 Australians will be diagnosed with cancer by age 85. Therefore, cancer will most certainly affect you or someone you know. Despite these startling figures, there is a severe lack of cancer education in schools. With the increasing need to become aware of the various aspects of cancer and cancer treatment, Year 10 students have been offered an opportunity to engage in a course to learn about cancer from first year medical students at the University of Melbourne, and ultimately compete in a 60-minute multiple-choice competition paper.
From malignant tumours to cancer treatment, the content we cover is vast and broad, taking place over Zoom in a series of masterclasses. An element of interaction is still maintained over Zoom as we have the opportunity to ask questions and complete quizzes in 'real-time.' During these masterclasses, we have been introduced to DNA structure, the causes of cancer, diagnosis and treatment. Observing specific examples, such as a high tendency that human papilloma virus (HPV) infections in causing cervical cancer and how alcohol has an associated increased risk of cancer, we are able to gauge how lifestyle choices can affect our risk of getting cancer and encourage us to make healthier choice in our everyday lives.
The nuanced and detailed curriculum the Australian Cancer and Health Sciences Competition has developed have made the Masterclasses engaging and made us eager to participate in the competition. I enjoy the insight we receive into an aspect of medicine as it is career path many of us are considering. The masterclasses also demonstrate the practical applications of the curriculum that illustrate the impacts seemingly benign choices may have on our risk of contracting cancer. We thank all involved in making this amazing opportunity available to us."
Tanya Nagrani (Year 10)
Mrs Melissa Mitchell