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Topics in health sciences

This module gives an overview of two medical conditions that present a major global health problem; cardiovascular disease and cancer. Many of us will encounter these medical conditions either through professional involvement in health, or through affected family members or friends. Your study of cardiovascular diseases will develop your understanding of heart and circulatory diseases, and the anatomy and physiology of the cardiovascular system. Cancers result from defects in cell proliferation, so you’ll study the properties of cells, how they divide and how tumours are formed and spread. Both topics consider risk factors and methods of detection, treatment and prevention worldwide.

Modules count towards OU qualifications

OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code
Study level
1 7 4
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
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What you will study

This module starts by introducing the major diseases of the heart and circulation, and the normal functioning of the cardiovascular system. You will:

  • learn how genetic factors combine with environmental and lifestyle factors to affect cardiovascular disease risk in different groups of people
  • examine ways to assess the damage caused by a heart attack and any underlying cardiovascular disease
  • look at the options for medical management or surgical intervention for different conditions
  • investigate how patients can be rehabilitated following a heart attack, and adapt their lifestyle to slow further disease progression and reduce the likelihood of subsequent attacks.

The second part of the module begins with an introduction to cancers on a global level, providing data on their incidence worldwide. You’ll then study the basic biology of cancers and the genetic factors that influence their formation, progression and spread to other parts of the body. The module will guide you through:

  • the risk factors associated with various cancers
  • diagnostic tests, including some imaging methods and screening techniques
  • the various therapeutic approaches currently available, including surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and biological therapies
  • palliative care treatments for terminally-ill individuals.

You will then learn about certain practical aspects and psychological adjustments that a person living with cancer has to consider in the context of diagnosis, treatment, prognosis and day-to-day living. The module finishes by briefly outlining the most promising medical approaches in dealing with cancers that may become available in the future.

This module integrates multimedia and text to show you how these conditions develop and progress, and the various diagnostic techniques and treatment options. Case studies of individuals are used throughout the module to link the medical aspects of care to the underlying science, and to convey the experience of the individual patient.

Topics in health sciences will appeal to you if you are a healthcare worker or working in professions allied to medicine, or have a general interest in the subject.

Teaching and assessment


Teaching is carried out online by Study Advisers who are available to help you with academic questions to do with the module and the assessment. You can contact the Study Advisers through a dedicated forum. There are also online discussion forums that you can use to get in touch other students.

The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You must complete and submit all the assessments online.

The interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs) are integral to the module and form an essential part of the learning process. You will be required to demonstrate your understanding on a proportion of them to successfully complete the module. The feedback you receive on all your answers will help you to improve your knowledge and understanding of the study material and provide valuable practice for the end-of-module assessment (EMA). The EMA has four parts, two of which are submitted mid-way through the module.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2015 when it will be available for the last time.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

10 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school


This is an OU level 1 module. OU level 1 modules provide core subject knowledge and study skills needed for both higher education and distance learning, to help you to progress to modules at OU level 2.

You are not expected to have any knowledge of cardiovascular diseases or cancers, but you should be able to read and understand written English of a style and complexity characteristic of a professional magazine or quality newspaper. If you have not studied up to GCSE level fairly recently, you should expect to spend longer on the study materials.

This module complements the 30-credit key introductory module Science and health: an evidence based approach (SDK100).

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.


Start End England fee Register
03 Oct 2015 Jun 2016 £1350.00

Registration closes 10/09/15 (places subject to availability)


You may need to apply for some payment or funding options earlier. Please check the Fees and Funding information or contact us for information.

October 2015 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after you register.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or book a call back at a time that is convenient to you.

Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2016. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

This information was provided on 03/08/2015.

What's included

Two printed module books and other printed materials, two DVD-ROMs, a website and online discussion forum facilities.

You will need

A basic calculator.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as the study materials and activities are accessible via a web browser. Any other computer-based activities you will need to carry out, such as word processing, using spreadsheets, taking part in online forums, and submitting files to the university for assessment, are specified in the module materials. If any additional software is needed for these tasks it will either be provided or is freely available. For this module you will also need to install software provided by the OU on a disk or USB stick.

A Windows desktop or laptop computer running Windows 7 or later operating system is suitable for this module. You will be required to install Microsoft Windows specific software.

A netbook, tablet, smartphone or Linux computer that supports one of the browsers listed below may be suitable. The screen size should be at least 1024 (H) x 768 (W) pixels. If you intend to use one of these devices please ensure you have access to a suitable desktop or laptop computer in case you are unable to carry out all the module activities on your mobile device.

We recommend a minimum 1 Mbps internet connection and any of the following browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 9 and above
  • Apple Safari 7 and above
  • Google Chrome 31 and above
  • Mozilla Firefox 31 and above.

Note: using the latest version for your browser will maximise security when accessing the internet. Using company or library computers may prevent you accessing some internet materials or installing additional software.

See our Skills for OU study website for further information about computing skills for study and educational deals for buying Microsoft Office software.

If you have a disability

If you have severely impaired sight or manual dexterity you may find using the web and the multimedia resources challenging. All electronic or multimedia aspects of the study materials have been made as accessible as possible, allowing navigation through the use of keyboard and shortcut keys. If you use special hardware or software we recommend that you find out whether it will work with the module resources before you register on the module. The printed study materials are available in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) as screen readable eBooks. Some components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and mathematical, scientific, and foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.