An innovative scanning system is hoping to prevent NHS patients with head and neck cancer from having to undergo traumatic post-treatment surgery.
A trial conducted by the Universities of Birmingham and Warwick, funded by the Government’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), has used advanced imaging to detect cancer cells still present in patients after chemotherapy.
Currently, patients must routinely undergo neck-dissection surgery after treatment because there is no reliable way of identifying who still has cancer cells. The surgery is up to three hours long and can have significant complications such as shoulder movement disability, disfigurement of the mouth and neck, and long-term pain.
By using this technique however, researchers hope to reduce the number of patients having to undergo this distressing procedure.
The results from the trial are remarkable. 81% of patients who used the scanning system did not require further surgery, and for those who did, the scans ensured the procedure was more targeted.
Life Sciences Minister George Freeman MP said:
This exciting trial has the potential to make a real difference to the lives of people with head and neck cancer, meaning that they may not have to undergo an extremely stressful medical procedure.
Through our commitment to investing £1bn every year in the National Institute for Health Research during this Parliament, we’re funding world class medical breakthroughs which can improve patient safety and help avoid unnecessary NHS treatment costs.
Over 11,000 people are diagnosed with a head and neck cancer in the UK each year, and it is the sixth lead most leading cancer by incidence across the globe.