More than 43,000 referrals were made to University Hospital Galway’s cancer centre last year.
Some 10,000 of these patients attended the facility’s breast and colorectal/upper gastro-intestinal clinics, according to Galway University Hospitals’s Cancer Centre report for 2012.
The study, which provides an overview of developments in each cancer speciality and an update on research and education, was presented and reviewed at the first Western Cancer Centre conference at Galway University Hospitals at the weekend.
The conference brought together speakers from the national agencies - the National Cancer Control Programme, the National Cancer Registry and the ESRI - together with experts in radiation oncology, haematology, colorectal/breast/lung and prostate screening to discuss key issues and the development of cancer services in the west.
Professor Michael Kerin, the chairperson of the cancer strategy group for the West/North West Hospitals Group and professor of surgery and head of discipline at NUI Galway spoke of the plans for developing cancer services for patients from the west.
“Our vision is to develop a comprehensive cancer centre which continues to deliver large volume, high quality diagnostics and therapeutics such as radiation, systemic chemotherapy and surgery,” he said.
“Cancer care will be provided by the clinically led multidisciplinary teams and the delivery of cancer care will be separated from the elective and emergency (scheduled and unscheduled ) care programmes. Some elements of this vision are already achieved; others require ongoing development. We are continuously aware that many of our patients are travelling long distances within the hospital group and will expand the arrangement of various tests and investigations on the same day.”
Summarising the report he outlined that since the implementation of the National Cancer Control Programme in 2006 and the designation of Galway University Hospitals as the cancer centre for the west/northwest, the number of cancer diagnoses has increased.
“The growth of the GUH cancer centre has been supported by an increase in the number of cancer specialists appointed and the development of the symptomatic breast centre, BreastCheck, and the rapid access prostate and lung clinics.”
He added that a multidisciplinary approach to cancer management and the expansion of clinical trials and research programmes will enable the cancer centre to develop further in order to deliver optimal cancer care to the people of the west and north west.”
Highlights from the Galway University Hospitals Cancer Centre 2012 report include:
· Since 2006, the number of consultants specialising in cancer has increased by almost 60 per cent from 34.5 (whole time equivalents ) to 54.5.
· All women with urgent breast cancer symptoms are now seen within two weeks and have all their radiology and biopsies performed on that day.
· The Rapid Access Prostate Clinic continues to expand. There are a number of clinical trials available for selected patients for high risk prostate cancer.
· The upper gastrointestinal (GI ) service continued to expand following its designation by the NCCP as one of the three satellite upper GI cancer centres along with Cork University Hospital and Beaumont Hospital. St James’ Hospital, Dublin is the national centre for upper GI cancer.
· The new Plastic Surgery Procedures Unit, which opened in 2012, surgically treated 803 patients with benign and malignant skin lesions.
· The Rapid Access Lung Clinic (RALC ) allowed a rapid access point for the assessment and work up of patients with (presumed ) lung cancer. A key performance index for this service is that first review of patient should take place within two weeks of GP referral.
· 2012 saw the arrival of Trans Oral Laser Surgery (TORS ) to patients in the west for the first time. Using lasers, early laryngeal cancers can be excised trans-orally under general anaesthesia. This provides an excellent alternative treatment option to the standard six weeks external beam radiation.
Bill Maher, the chief executive of the West/North West Hospitals Group, who chaired the morning session of the cancer centre conference, stated the hospital group’s vision is to develop a cohesive cancer institute which encompasses the multidisciplinary team collaborating on the patient journey through the directorate model and cancer strategy group.
“The other key collaborator is the group’s academic partner, NUI Galway. The vision extends through clinical care, education and cancer research so that the centre would become the largest training and education centre in Ireland. In addition we will encourage and develop interactions with philanthropic stakeholders.”
Most cancers require input from a diagnostic team consisting of radiologists, pathologists and surgeons and a therapeutic team of medical, radiation and surgical oncologists. Support is provided by registered advanced nurse practitioners, dedicated clinical nurse managers (CNM ), clinical nurse specialists (CNS ), radiographers, technicians and other clinicians such as plastic surgeons and palliative care specialists. Services across the region are supported by a dedicated teleconferencing facility with input from team members at GUH and regional hospitals.