4:42pm Monday 26th March 2012
By James Calnan
A CANCER patient is today due to become the first to receive an improved type of radiotherapy at Essex County Hospital, Colchester.
The tongue cancer patient will undergo intensity-modulated radiation therapy, which increases the survival rate and reduces side-effects felt from standard radiotherapy.
Initially, it will only be for those with head or neck cancer. In future, it will be available for those with other types of cancer, such as prostate, breast and lung.
The new treatment follows a £288,000 investment by Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, which allows clinicians to accurately plan the therapy. Specialist radiographer Celine Driscoll said: “We are excited about this development in Colchester.
“It will have a positive impact on certain groups of patients. But it must be stressed, it is not appropriate for all patients with head and neck cancer. In certain clinical situations, it means we can target a higher dose of radiation precisely at the tumour by modulating – or controlling – the intensity of the radiation beam, while minimising the dose to surrounding healthy tissue.
“Patients benefit in two ways – the higher dose means the tumour is more likely to shrink or be eliminated and, because there is less damage to healthy tissue, the likelihood of side effects is reduced.”
The patient will have the treatment for five days a week over six weeks.
Some head and neck cancer patients experience side-effects, which include a dry mouth caused by damage to the salivary glands, for the rest of their lives.
The new treatment is planned using 3D CT scan images with computerised dose calculations to find the right intensity matching the tumour shape.
Such care will not be available at Essex County Hospital for much longer. A planning application is to be submitted next month for a £24 million radiotherapy centre at Colchester General Hospital, treating patients in the north and centre of Essex.
If the bid is successful, work is due to start in July, with the centre completed in December 2013.
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