Guy’s Hospital uses ‘revolutionary’ new way to treat breast cancer

Kit Heren (12 May, 2021)

Breast cancer patients at the hospital will avoid being tattooed with three dots

44526Jane Markcoons and her husband Mark

Guy’s is the first NHS hospital to offer a “revolutionary” new way of treating breast cancer patients.

Normally when people with breast cancer are given radiotherapy, they are tattooed with three small dots to make sure the treatment is targeted. This is important because if the radiation is delivered to the wrong place it can be ineffective and cause unwanted side-effects.

But it also leaves patients with a reminder of their illness permanently marked on their body, which some find distressing.

A new highly-sensitive tracking system now projects a red light from three camera pods onto the place that needs treatment. If the patient moves at all, the radiation shuts off.

About 1,000 people a year at Guy’s and St Thomas’ will be treated using this new system. Guy’s specialist cancer centre was the first to test it out.

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South Londoner Jane Markcoons, 60, said: “I was really pleased to find out I wouldn’t be left with tattoo marks as the last thing you want is to be reminded of your cancer all the time. When lots of women have radiotherapy they have already undergone chemotherapy and may be struggling with hair loss and other side effects so this is one less thing to worry about.

“I was shown respect and kindness by every one of the staff. At a very scary time, when I didn’t know what to expect, I was treated as a person and not a condition or disease.”

Deirdre Dobson, deputy head of radiotherapy at Guy’s and St Thomas’, added: “Having a permanent reminder of their cancer treatment and what they’ve had to go through can be very distressing for some of our patients. This new technique helps them to leave their radiotherapy in the past and will really benefit our patients’ psychological wellbeing.

“As breast cancer survival rates improve it’s more important than ever that we don’t just treat the disease but help our patients move on with their lives as well. We are continuing to develop our techniques using this technology to investigate enhancing experience for more patient groups.”

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