NICE approves pioneering cancer treatment

Posted: February 9, 2017

Intraoperative radiotherapy to benefit up to 120 patients a year

A groundbreaking cancer treatment is to be made available to NHS patients at the Great Western Hospital following its approval by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). 

The organisation responsible for recommending or refusing new treatments described the benefits of intraoperative radiotherapy as "promising". 

Unlike traditional methods, it involves giving breast cancer patients a one-off dose of radiotherapy while they are still in the operating theatre.

It has the potential to save up to 120 women from Swindon and Wiltshire from making daily trips to radiotherapy centres in Oxford, Bath and Cheltenham for treatment in the weeks following surgery. 

Other advantages include patients experiencing less pain and sensitivity, a reduced risk of infection and quicker recovery times.

One of six

GWH will be one of only six hospitals in the UK to provide this pioneering treatment, once funding from NHS England is made available later in the year. 

The state-of-the-art equipment used for the procedure, which was part funded through an appeal by Trust charity Brighter Futures, has been at GWH since 2015 but has only been used sporadically as part of a pilot project.

Speaking in 2015, Nathan Coombs, Consultant Breast Surgeon, said: "I know from experience that, following surgery, women face an uncomfortable wait of several weeks before they can begin radiotherapy. During this time, it is only natural that patients worry about tumour development.

A wondeful thing

"It feels amazing to be able to say that we now have the ability to significantly reduce that anxiety. Any treatment that can make the cancer journey a little bit easier is a wonderful thing."

Although NICE has recommended the controlled use of intraoperative radiotherapy, it also said that patients should be fully consulted on its risks and benefits before consenting to the treatment.

Professor Carole Longson, Director of the Centre for Health Technology Evaluation at NICE, said: "This is a promising new way of providing radiotherapy but the evidence needs to develop. 

"The committee therefore recommends that its use is carefully controlled and accompanied by gathering additional information on its clinical effectiveness."

Visit the NICE website for more information. 

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