Cambridge Biomedical Campus Cancer Week - An interview with Ingela Oberg

Name: Ingela Oberg

Age: 44

Where do you live: Newmarket

How long have you worked here? 

I moved to the UK from Sweden in February 1997 and I’ve worked at Addenbrooke’s for 20 years. 

What roles have you had at the hospital?

I started working in the Neuro Critical Care Unit, then I moved to organ donation and transplantation and I’ve worked as a Macmillan Lead Neuro-Oncology Nurse since 2009. 

Originally, I grew up in the Middle East and wanted to be a primary school teacher but I didn’t get into teacher training, so I went back to Sweden to complete my three years nursing degree. The plan was to go back to the Middle East once I had three to five years nursing experience, but I ended up staying in Cambridge because I liked the city so much and I had friends who were studying here at university. 

How many patients do you roughly see? 

As a team, we discuss around 25 regional brain tumour referrals per week, of which we see around five new patients in our consultant led clinic every week. I also run a nurse led telephone clinic, which had five brain tumour patients in 2011 and now has more than 250 on regular follow-up appointments.  

Why did you want to be a nurse specialising in cancer? 

In neuro I get to be involved with the patient through everything, from the beginning to the end. If I can help speed up diagnosis, help ease their end of life care, give advice about various treatments then I feel like I’m helping. 

When I was younger my little brother had a malignant brain tumour so I like to think I’m someone patients and their relatives can relate to. I think of my mum when I’m supporting relatives and patients and try to think what I can do to make their journey as easy as possible. 

Tell us a little bit about your role?

A brain tumour doesn’t always mean you have cancer, it’s an abnormal growth. You can have primary brain tumours which start in the brain and have different grades from cancerous to benign and secondary cancers, which means they start in another part of the body and spread to the brain. 

I come into contact with patients pre-diagnosis, once they have been diagnosed – I’m often breaking bad news and I assist with onward treatment. As a brain tumour specialist nurse I review brain scans to help the consultants and I deal with referrals from around 12 other hospitals in the region. 

Brain cancer is the biggest killer to those under 40 and can have such subtle symptoms. As a specialist nurse I’m often giving advice to GPs, I have a good relationship with other specialist nurses in other hospitals and I hold clinics where I can talk to patients about their holistic needs, including driving, returning to work, side effects of medication, fatigue and depression.

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