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Royal Free first to try life-saving cancer ops

PUBLISHED: 14:07 20 March 2008 | UPDATED: 14:53 07 September 2010

CANCER treatment is being pioneered at Hampstead s Royal Free hospital, where patients are now benefiting from the latest technology. Last week surgeons at the Pond Street hospital performed their first 'intraoperative' breast cancer procedure

Tan Parsons

CANCER treatment is being pioneered at Hampstead's Royal Free hospital, where patients are

now benefiting from the latest technology.

Last week surgeons at the Pond Street hospital performed their first 'intraoperative' breast cancer procedure - where a tumour is removed and cancer cells killed using radiotherapy, all under one general anaesthetic.

It means patients no longer have to undergo weeks or months of debilitating radiotherapy afterwards.

The hospital has also become the first in the UK to host an advanced operation to treat pancreatic cancer.

Pensioner Audrey Holman was the first patient to receive the intraoperative treatment and was able to be discharged from the wards just 48 hours later.

The 83-year-old said: "It was wonderful. They kept me in hospital for two days to make sure I was ok after the operation, but I felt back to normal after 24 hours.

"At first I felt a bit odd, as though something wasn't right, but now I'm completely back to normal.

"If I'd had to visit the hospital five times a week for six weeks I don't know how I would have coped."

Dr Mo Keshtar, who performed the pioneering operation, is helping to develop the revolutionary technique.

He said: "There are many benefits to this sort of procedure, as opposed to conventional treatments. The patient does not have to keep coming back for radiotherapy, which can be exhausting."

In December last year surgeon Kito Fusai and his colleague Dinesh Sharma carried out a complex new procedure to tackle pancreatic cancer - traditionally one of the most difficult to treat.

This was the first time in the country that surgeons have been able to treat patients with advanced tumours, where they have spread extensively into the portal vein - a major vessel behind the pancreas.

The treatment involves cutting out the tumour with a long segment of the portal vein and replacing it with an equivalent piece of jugular vein from the neck.

Mr Fusai said: "If discovered early, before it has spread to other major organs such as the liver or lungs, the cancer may be treatable.

"However, currently only a small proportion of patients - around 10 per cent - are suitable for surgery and the only treatment for the vast majority of patients is chemotherapy or palliative treatment.

"This new technique is exciting as it enables us to offer a whole new group of patients the opportunity for surgery.

"We expect it will double the number of patients each year - potentially saving many hundreds more lives."

tan.parsons@hamhigh.co.uk

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