A new approach to treatment has begun making life easier for prostate cancer patients in the North East.
The Northern Centre for Cancer Care, based at the Freeman Hospital, is the first in the UK to treat prostate cancer patients using pioneering MRI-only planning technology and radiotherapy.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in UK men.
It's often treated with radiotherapy, which involves delivering a very high dose of radiation to the prostate gland, while aiming to deliver as low a dose as possible to surrounding healthy organs, such as the bowel and bladder, to protect them.
Normally, patients have to attend hospital twice ahead of their treatment, for a CT scan and an MRI scan, to ensure the radiation is targeted in the right places.
But through this method, already used in some other European countries, new MRI-only planning technology means the CT scan can be safely omitted. And, because doctors only have to examine one image, it makes the targeting more accurate, protecting healthy organs and reducing side-effects.
Keith Kirby, 69, from Gosforth, is one of the first patients who has been able to take advantage of the new technology.
He said: "Anything that can improve the technique and make the delivery of the radiotherapy more accurate has to be a good thing. I’m only too pleased to help by being a part of this new pre-treatment."
Head of Radiotherapy Physics, Chris Walker, said: "It is particularly gratifying that the implementation of the most up to date technology allows our patients to benefit from spending less time in hospital."
And consultant clinical oncologist, Rachel Pearson, added: "This new MRI-only system is already being used in several European radiotherapy departments and now, here in Newcastle, we have treated the first patients in the UK using this treatment pathway.
"Using one image rather than two allows us to better target the tumour and avoid healthy organs. It also reduces the amount of time patients are in hospital and the severity of side-effects, both in the short and longer term.
"We are very excited that, with support from the charity Charlie Bear for Cancer Care, we are able to bring this state-of-the-art treatment to our patients in the North East."