Changes in technology mean better chances for cancer patients

Wed, 17 Jul 2019

The council has launched a one year cancer awareness campaign and is currently highlighting the treatment successes that come from changes in technology, an advance in medicine and the development of the Castle Hill hospital facilities in Cottingham.

The Queen’s Centre for Oncology and Haematology was officially opened by her majesty on 5 March 2009. The building was designed specifically for the treatment of patients with cancer to ensure that it provided an environment that would help clinicians to deliver the best possible care and support patients to go through their cancer journey in as much comfort as possible.

Professor Russell Patmore is the medical director for clinical support at Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals and spoke about the benefits that he is seeing in terms of cancer care.

He said: “Since it opened a large proportion of our local population have used the Queen’s, either as a patient or as a friend or relative of a person with cancer and all will have benefited from the hard work that so many staff and patients put into its development.

“Reflecting on the last 10 years it is an illustration of the rapid evolution of cancer treatment that almost everything we do has changed over that time. Patients with cancer are now diagnosed earlier as screening has improved and people are better educated about the signs and symptoms that might indicate cancer.

“Diagnosis is much more accurate, as we now understand far more about how individual cancers work and often identify the different types at the molecular level. PET-CT scanning is now widely used across cancer and allows us to more accurately assess the extent of disease and monitor its response to therapy.

“In many cases surgical treatment has moved from the era of huge operations to keyhole techniques and more recently treatment using robots, delivering far more precision and less harm.

“Similarly, radiotherapy has been revolutionised with new machines that are able to much more precisely target the cancer without damaging normal tissues. These image-guided and stereotactic approaches improve the chances of cure and make the treatment far less toxic.

“Perhaps the biggest changes have occurred in the field of chemotherapy. Molecular studies have enabled us to map the pathways in cells that have gone wrong and made them cancerous. This has allowed us to target our treatments at the specific defects rather than use drugs that damage as many normal cells as cancerous ones.

“These targeted therapies include antibodies, some carrying toxic payloads, that can home in on the cancer wherever it is in the body and kill the cells that they find. Small molecules that block the abnormal pathways in the cancer cells that they need to survive and most recently, immunotherapy drugs that strip away the cancer cells defences allowing our own immune systems to kill them.

“The result of all of these changes is that more people are cured of their cancer and many more people are given the chance to live fulfilling lives with their cancer as it is controlled for many months or years by one of these new drugs.

“Unfortunately, despite all these advances, some people still die from their cancers. To help support them we have expanded and enhanced our palliative care services and linked them into our community services to ensure that people get the support that they need to make the right choices for them about the end of their life.

“As a result far more people now spend their final days in the place of their choosing and with those that they love.

“For all those that survive their cancer we have introduced survivorship pathways to support them to get back to full health and come to terms with the psychological effects of a cancer diagnosis and its treatment, things that can be harder than the treatment itself.

“What does the future hold? As we get older as a population and our ability to detect cancer gets better the number of people diagnosed with cancer will increase. As we stand today almost half of us will get cancer at some point in our lives.

“As our treatments continue to improve more people will be cured but more importantly we will learn that it is possible to live with cancer in much the same way that people do with asthma or diabetes today.

“Developing cancer is a consequence of living longer and will become a fact of most of our lives but hopefully one with far less fear and worry than it causes today.”

John Skidmore, director of adults, health and customer services at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: “As a council we are continuously striving to improve the health of our residents by offering as much support as possible to those going through cancer.

“We value working with Russell on this campaign and I must pay tribute to the efforts and support he and his team have given us throughout the year as we continue to witness the advances in technology and treatment.

“We are working closely with the team at Castle Hill Hospital, not only to support residents in the aftermath of cancer, but to help prevent it by raising awareness of the signs and symptoms associated with some cancers.”

For more information on cancer support, visit www.happyandwell.me