The ‘success story’ of cancer treatment

Posted on Jan 27, 2012

A leading cancer researcher will explain how the last thirty years have been a success story for cancer treatment in a lecture at the University of Leicester. University of Leicester researcher Professor Paul Symonds will highlight the progress made in technology and patient care since he started in the field of oncology in his inaugural lecture on ‘Cancer: Past, Present and Future’ on January 31. He said: “At present 50 per cent of the cures of cancer can be attributed to surgery 39 per cent to radiotherapy and 11 per cent to chemotherapy. Cures due to radiotherapy are partially due to the enormous advance in imaging allowing treatment to be accurately delivered to the tumour.”

He will draw on his research published earlier this month in the journal Clinical Oncology, which shows high levels of doctor-patient trust and confidence within the NHS in Leicestershire.

Professor Symonds, of the Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine, said: “There has been substantial progress in cancer throughout my career. It has been a slow-moving success story.

“One of the biggest changes in cancer medicine is communications with patients. As recently as the 1990s, doctors were told not to tell patients if they had cancer. I ran into trouble for telling patients their diagnosis.

“I led a team in Glasgow in the 1990s that showed over 90 per cent of patients with curable or incurable cancer wanted to know whether they had cancer or not and a large amount of information about the disease and treatment. It erodes trust between patients and doctors if patients feel like they are being lied to.”

Professor Symonds, who is also a consultant at Leicester’s Hospitals, will also outline some of the main technological advancements that have improved cancer detection and treatment.

He said: “Since I started as a consultant in 1981 there has been a steady fall in mortality from cancer. In the East Midlands the 10-year survival for operable breast cancer has risen from under 50 per cent in 1975 to 90 per cent currently.

“At present 50 per cent of the cures of cancer can be attributed to surgery 39 per cent to radiotherapy and 11 per cent to chemotherapy. Cures due to radiotherapy are partially due to the enormous advance in imaging allowing treatment to be accurately delivered to the tumour.

“There has been a technological revolution in the way radiotherapy is given allowing less normal tissue to be treated with a lesser risk of late complications. A higher dose can be also administered with a greater prospect of cure.”

Professor Symonds added that the greatest challenges for cancer care in Leicester in the future would be reducing levels of anxiety about cancer among British South Asian patients - who his research has shown have particularly high levels of depression following diagnosis - and improving personalised treatment.

Professor Symonds' lecture will be held at 5.30pm on January 31 at Lecture Theatre 1, Ken Edwards Building, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester.


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