First patient treated in new specialist Christie unit

Date published: 30 September 2013

The Christie today (30 September) treated its first patient in its new £3.8 million brachytherapy and molecular radiotherapy unit. The newly built bespoke two storey unit will house the UK’s largest brachytherapy service.

Brachytherapy is used as an internal radiotherapy treatment, where high doses of radiotherapy can be given directly to the tumour with lower doses given to surrounding healthy tissues. As such brachytherapy is associated with fewer side effects when compared to normal radiotherapy. Brachytherapy is currently mainly used to treat prostate, cervix, womb or lung cancers affecting the airway but it can be used to treat other cancers. The Christie already delivers some of the best results in the country for this treatment.

The new unit will also deliver molecular radiotherapy which is another form of specialised cancer treatment where patients receive radioactive pharmaceuticals as a drink, capsules or by injection. Cancer cells absorb these radioactive pharmaceuticals more than healthy cells, and therefore the treatment is concentrated in the specific site of the cancer. This treatment is mainly used to treat thyroid and neuro-endocrine cancers.

The state-of-the-art unit contains: seven, one-bed rooms; two, two bedded rooms and one, four-bed bay. The unit has been purpose built with patient pathways in mind. Previously these two services were carried out in different areas of The Christie and are the most precise, most successful techniques for beating certain cancers.

74 year old Pauline McKinlay from the Waterhead area of Oldham was one of the first patients to be treated in the unit today. Pauline, who has two daughters, five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren is being treated for endometrial or womb cancer. She has already undergone a hysterectomy, four weeks of radiotherapy and today started brachytherapy treatment which lasts around 12 hours.

She said; “I feel extremely honoured to be receiving treatment in this new environment. From the very start of my treatment I’ve received the best care and been in the very best hands. I’ve been nervous about my treatment, but being in an area that’s light, airy and comfortable makes all the difference.”

The Chief Executive at The Christie, Caroline Shaw, said; “Through providing these treatments in the highest quality environment and integrating these services we will be able to significantly improve the patient experience. It will also enable us to cope with any future increased demand and improve the quality of care for patients, using cutting edge techniques.

Project lead for the new unit and consultant clinical oncologist Dr Susan Davidson, said; “Patients undergoing molecular radiotherapy often have to spend up to five days in isolation and facilities in this new unit are significantly improved and more efficient than before. There is growing demand for these forms of treatments and this new unit will also allow us to treat more patients than before.”

Other key features in the unit include the introduction of Sky Factory technology to help patients who have to be in isolation for their treatment. Sky Factory technology is essentially a huge screen, which can be placed on the ceiling - to simulate the sky - and there are smaller screens for walls which create windows. These include light levels which vary depending on the time of day. Sky Factory technology creates a virtual window to the outside world and can help reduce stress and improve the patient experience.

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