A GP from Kirkby Lonsdale who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of endometrial cancer (a type of womb cancer) is happy to be spared additional surgery during her treatment due to a new technique funded by Rosemere Cancer Foundation - the first of its type in the North West.
Five weeks ago, Dr Shehzana Fraser (pictured), who worked alongside husband Dr Iain Fraser for Morecambe’s Bay Medical Group until 2018, underwent a hysterectomy at the cancer centre as part of her treatment. Her surgery, which was performed by consultant gynaecological oncologist Mr Georgios Angelopoulos, was keyhole surgery that also involved the use of a Pinpoint High Definition Fluorescent Imaging System.
The system was bought for the centre at a cost of £110,000 by Rosemere's charitable funds. The gynaecological oncology team based at Rosemere Cancer Centre (the regional specialist cancer treatment centre for the whole of South Cumbria and Lancashire) are the only clinicians to use this method in the area.
The imaging system is a laparoscope, a thin tube with a powerful infra red camera at the end, used for sentinel lymph node detection and mapping. Lymph nodes are little collections of tissue that contain immune cells and work to filter harmful substances, including infections, from the body. Sentinel lymph nodes are the first lymph nodes to which cancer cells are likely to spread.
The system enabled Mr Angelopoulos to find and examine just the sentinel lymph nodes in the pelvic sidewall to check the spread of Dr Fraser's cancer, rather than undertaking extra surgery to remove some further or even all nodes.
Dr Fraser, who 10 years ago underwent surgery for breast cancer, said: “I was delighted to be offered the Pinpoint sentinel node mapping procedure and then very relieved that it could be carried out successfully during my surgery. I was aware that this wasn’t widely available despite the fact that it offers the chance of a less extensive operation with fewer side effects. I was able to leave hospital the next day and although I had been given pain relief I was fortunate to only need paracetamol.
“Both as a doctor and as a patient, I feel the unequal availability of the procedure depending on where you live is a great pity and the fact remains that the NHS does rely on the contribution of charitable funding for some of these innovative treatments.”
Mr Angelopoulos said: “Having the Pinpoint imaging system enables less radical surgery, which means quicker surgery and therefore, shorter anaesthetic, less blood loss, less pain, reduced hospital stay, a faster recovery and less risk of complications such as lymphoedema, which is swelling to the pelvis and legs.
“On average, we are looking at a reduction in operating time of one to one and half hours depending on the surgical difficulty, hospital stay reduced to overnight and risk of lymphoedema reduced to 0% from a risk of up to 4-5% in patients undergoing complete lymph node excision”.
Mr Angelopoulos added: “We are grateful to Rosemere Cancer Foundation for funding the Pinpoint system, enabling us to be the first and currently only gynaecological cancer centre in the North West to identify and map sentinel nodes in this way.”