New treatment to help beat cancer

A grandad from Corby has become the first person in the county to benefit from a new radiation treatment which sees beams bent around healthy tissue to target cancer cells.

Northampton General Hospital is one of only a handful of centres in the country to use the new radiotherapy which results in fewer side effects for cancer patients.

Billy Irvine, 69, from Corby was the first patient to be chosen to be treated with the new technique.

Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) targets tumours but avoids damaging vital organs.

The technique uses precise beams that can be varied in intensity and shaped to target tumours while protecting healthy tissue.

This means higher doses of radiation can be given, cutting side effects and improving responses to treatment.

Mr Irvine was diagnosed with prostate cancer last October.

He said: "When you find out you've got prostate cancer it hits you hard. But my kids are wonderful and friends are a great support and that is a big thing.

"My next door neighbour had prostate cancer four years ago and it's been good to talk to him about it. It makes me feel better to see him now, four years on."

Billy is having treatment five days-a-week for seven weeks, but says cancer has made little difference to his life.

He said: "I am still doing my gardening. I'm told I might get tired, but at the moment I'm doing fine."

Consultant clinical oncologist Dr Philip Camilleri said: "IMRT shapes the radiation beam more precisely to the shape of the prostate so we are able to bend x-rays around corners into flexible shapes, and avoid other organs that we don't want to treat. It's much more accurate, and patients get fewer side effects.

"This is a really sophisticated treatment that is not available in some of the bigger cancer centres around us – so it is a big achievement for us."

IMRT is being used on just two or three prostate cancer patients a month but is becoming more widely used on an increasing number of other cancers, including lung, oesophagus and pancreas.

By next year, it is possible 200 patients a month could be treated this way.