New ‘gold’ lung cancer care at Northampton hospital

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Staff at Northampton General Hospital are pioneering a new way of treating lung cancer which involves implanting a small piece of gold into a patient’s tumour.

The hospital is the first in the county to use a new form of treatment to target early-stage lung cancer, which involves using specialist equipment to provide more precise doses of radiotherapy over a shorter period of time.

The treatment involves inserting a small gold ‘marker’ into a patient’s tumour which, after being highlighted in an X-ray or CT scan, gives a more accurate guide to where to deliver the radiation. It is hoped the new treatment – which is delivered via the hospital’s high-tech ‘linear accelerator’ – will reduce the amount of side-effects, lower the risk of complications and increase cure rates for lung cancer patients who cannot or will not have surgery.

Professor Hany Eldeeb, consultant clinical oncologist, who is leading the introduction of the new treatment, said: “If a patient is elderly, the risk of surgery is too high.

“The standard therapy is to have radiation doses every working day for six weeks, but this new treatment only requires five doses.

“The patient is still getting the same level of radiation but in a much stronger and more accurate way.”

Prof Eldeeb said the gold marker enabled staff to track the tumour continuously so the treatment took into account the patient’s breathing movements.

He said: “The treatment is painless and patients can continue their daily activities without difficulty.

“It uses multiple, tightly conformed radiation beams converging at the lung tumour, allowing very high doses to be given to the tumour itself, while very little surrounding tissue receives radiation. The high dose leads to cure rates comparable to surgery, and because of the low volume lung exposure there are fewer side-effects and a low risk of complications.”

NGH is one of only three hospitals in the east Midlands to pilot the new form of radiotherapy.

The first patient to receive the new form of radiotherapy treatment for lung cancer was Iris Goodwin, aged 82, of Milton Keynes.

Mrs Goodwin, a mother of four and a grandmother of 11, said she had suffered few ill effects.

She said: “I don’t mind being the first patient treated here with it. I’ve had very little pain and very few side effects.

“I’d definitely recommend the treatment to other people in the same circumstances. I’d recommend it to anyone, even my own children.

“The travelling to Northampton hasn’t been a problem for just five visits, but I would not have coped with having to come every day. The staff here have been wonderful, and the doctor is marvellous. I couldn’t have asked for better.”

Another patient is already being prepared for the treatment, and it will be extended to more people in the Northamptonshire area over the coming months.