Our patient stories

We believe patients can be our teachers and trusted advisers, benefiting from their unique experiences.

Marco’s story – How a cold and sore throat actually turned out to be cancer

Marco embraced the opportunity to support his wife in her career when they moved to the UK from Chicago in 2017. The plan was for Marco to take a career break and then find a new position but after being diagnosed with tonsil cancer, his search for work was put on hold.

Marco is 56 years old and lives in Hampshire with his wife and their 15-year-old daughter. He enjoys cooking fresh food from scratch, hiking and trying out new recipes for his family and friends.

Marco told us “In January 2021, I was suffering with a cold and persistent sore throat. I could see that my tonsils were inflamed but thought nothing of it. I only contacted my doctor after discovering a hard lump on the side of my neck.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions I had a telephone consultation with my GP and sent him a photo of the back of my throat. He thought it looked serious so immediately referred me for an MRI scan and a biopsy. Unfortunately, this resulted in a diagnosis of tonsil cancer. It was a complete shock to me and my family, we’d come to the UK to follow our dreams and cancer was never part of our plan.”

Tonsil cancer is often diagnosed late in the disease, when cancer has spread to nearby areas, such as the lymph nodes in the neck. That’s why it’s important to get checked out early if you experience, difficulty swallowing, swelling or pain in the neck or throat, earache or jaw stiffness.

Marco said “I was relieved that my private medical insurance meant I could choose my clinician and where I would be treated. I learned of 3 head and neck oncologists and thoroughly researched each of them making my decision based on three factors; clinician speciality, clinician’s seniority within the speciality and location of the centre where they provided treatment. I chose leading expert Dr Nicola Dallas, Consultant Oncologist at GenesisCare in Windsor as she was the best fit for me. Dr Dallas has a specialist interest in head and neck cancers and the latest treatment developments. She has years of experience and is held in high regard, being the clinical governance lead for the Berkshire Cancer centre and is also responsible for overseeing specialist oncology trainees. This made me feel that I’d be in safe hands.

At my initial consultation, Dr Dallas explained the treatment options available to me. We discussed chemoradiotherapy and the potential benefits of having surgery before possible chemoradiotherapy.

Dr Dallas recommended that I see one of her colleagues, Professor Stuart Winter as he is an esteemed head and neck surgeon who practices in Oxford, and he is part of the same multidisciplinary team (MDT) as Dr Dallas. This provided a seamless pathway between surgery and my subsequent treatments and therefore I was extremely happy to take Dr Dallas’ recommendation. It really made sure that everyone in the MDT knew my history and was able to collaborate efficiently and effectively.”

Professor Winter said “It is crucial that when someone is diagnosed with tonsil cancer that they have a streamlined approach to their investigations and treatment plan. The ability to have a range of experts within GenesisCare means that there is no delay in getting the correct scans, biopsies and having the appropriate team members able to make decisions about care.”

Marco continued “Six weeks after surgery I started a course of radiotherapy and chemotherapy which were administered simultaneously at GenesisCare in Windsor. I was given chemotherapy once a week and received radiotherapy every weekday for 6 weeks. As I was travelling back and forth from my home in the Hampshire, and also dealing with my family commitments, it was extremely helpful that I was able to pick appointment days and times that worked well for me and my family.  The team at GenesisCare were also so supportive and went out of their way to ensure I got the very best care possible.”

Dr Dallas explained “Marco received volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT), a type of advanced radiotherapy where the beams are shaped to fit the target area. It’s a very precise treatment delivered as the machine moves around the body in an arc concentrating the radiation on the tumour. This means we can deliver the treatment dose with increased accuracy, whilst reducing the impact on surrounding healthy tissue. During his radiotherapy sessions, Marco wore a state-of-the-art custom-made mask which fitted closely over his head and shoulders, keeping him in the right position throughout and improving treatment accuracy.”

Marco continued “Throughout my treatment I wanted to be kept informed about how I was shaping up. I always felt that this would ensure I was able to feel in control. The team told me at every step of the way how I was responding and whether I was on track to reach the expected milestones. The clinicians made me feel like they were my own personal team, we were there to do a job together and I felt very much part of the process. My business background, working as part of a high-pressure team helped me to look at it from this perspective and this way of thinking had a positive impact for me.”

The facilities and services available at GenesisCare go way beyond just the chemo and radiotherapy and I made sure I took full advantage of their integrative cancer care approach, which provides complementary treatments that support the whole patient, not just their cancer. They provide reflexology and acupuncture, in their centre, through their partnership with Penny Brohn UK which I found to be extremely beneficial as it helped me relax and relieved tension. They also have an on-site gym and I was given a personalised exercise medicine programme which played an important part in my mental and physical health. I believe that this comprehensive approach significantly contributed to my overall wellbeing and recovery.

Commenting on Marco’s treatment, Dr Nicola Dallas said “Marco received an intensive course of treatment; surgery quickly followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy. This has been given with curative intent, and his post-treatment scan shows an excellent response to treatment at this stage. Marco’s ability to engage with all members of the multidisciplinary team has enabled him to optimise what is undoubtedly an extremely challenging treatment journey. He has benefitted fully from the additional services available to GenesisCare patients; the exercise clinic and complementary therapies and has already achieved an excellent functional outcome following treatment.”

Marco will continue to have regular appointments with his consultant to monitor his progress.

Marco says of his experience, “The energy of the staff at GenesisCare is exhilarating. Everyone was fantastic and I would describe going there as my happy place. To me, ’cancer’ is no longer a gloomy process or negative word, it’s just cancer. The attitude of the GenesisCare team is always positive and upbeat and I felt like part of the team and that we were all in it together.”

John’s story – impressions of GenesisCare during lung cancer treatment

John was referred to GenesisCare by a friend who is an employee. John tells of his great experience of being treated at GenesisCare in Cambridge and shares his positive experience of flexible appointment times. If you’d like to make an enquiry, please get in touch with us here.

Lee’s story – experience of breast cancer radiotherapy treatment

Lee shares her experience of having breast cancer and receiving radiotherapy at GenesisCare and tells her advice on what to give people going through cancer. If you’d like to make an enquiry, please get in touch with us here.

Martin’s story – prostate cancer radiotherapy at GenesisCare in Newmarket

Martin is local to the Newmarket centre and had driven past GensisCare multiple times before he got referred for radiotherapy treatment. Martin discusses his positive experiences with Penny Brohn and the great benefits they had to him. If you’d like to make an enquiry, please get in touch with us here.

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Jeana’s story – Chemotherapy and well being services at GenesisCare

Having lost her appetite and generally not feeling well Jeana went to her Doctor who sent her for blood tests. Three days later she was diagnosed with cancer. Jeana talks about what it’s been like to receive her chemotherapy at GenesisCare and the reflexology and accupuncture she took advantage of. If you’d like to make an enquiry, please get in touch with us here.

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Caroline’s story – early detection and treatment of breast cancer at GenesisCare

After finding a lump in her breast Caroline was referred to the Breast Clinic and having caught her cancer early has had her treatment. She talks about how life has changed for her and what it’s like to come to GenesisCare for treatment. If you’d like to make an enquiry, please get in touch with us here.

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Claire’s story – MRIdian treatment for pancreatic cancer

“A diagnosis of inoperable pancreatic cancer has been devastating for me. Beyond standard chemo drugs there doesn’t appear to be many other treatment options. I’m thrilled to have been offered the chance to undergo SABR at GenesisCare. The experience on the MRIdian has been fantastic – the ability to see your tumour and guide treatment in real time is amazing.” We’re proud to be able to support patients like Claire who shares her personal experience of her pancreatic cancer journey and treatment on the MRIdian in this short video.

Laurence’s story – Treatment for recurrent prostate cancer on the MRIdian MR Linac

Laurence, a consultant engineer, property developer and amateur architect is married with three children and five grandchildren.

In 2004 Laurence was diagnosed with prostate cancer and subsequently underwent 20 sessions of radiotherapy. Despite suffering from some side effects, the treatment proved successful until a routine PSA test in 2020 indicated things were changing and a diagnostic scan confirmed that his prostate cancer had returned.

As Laurence had already undergone external beam radiotherapy, he was not a suitable candidate for surgery and his choices were limited. He could either opt for hormone therapy long term to attempt to control the cancer or he could have a revolutionary new prostate reirradiation treatment.

Having discussed his options with his doctor, Laurence said “This was a no brainer for me. The hormone therapy is not a curative treatment and comes with a long list of side effects, that would adversely impact on my quality of life. However, the new reirradiation treatment has had no side effects and aims to irradicate the cancer.”

This revolutionary new treatment is carried out on the ground-breaking MRIdian MR linac machine at GenesisCare in Oxford providing a safe and effective treatment option for men with locally recurrent prostate cancer. The MRIdian enables clinicians to see detailed live images of the tumour and surrounding tissue providing them with greater control and confidence that they’re hitting the target 100% of the time. The MRIdian is the only model that has automated beam control, meaning that if a tumour moves even slightly, the treatment will be automatically paused until it comes back into position, to avoid healthy tissue being damaged.

The greater accuracy also allows doctors to provide an equivalent outcome to the standard 20 and 37 radiotherapy doses, but with less overall dose resulting in as few as 5 treatment sessions for patients.

Following his diagnosis, Laurence was referred to Dr Philip Camilleri, Clinical Oncologist at GenesisCare who explained how the MRIdian worked, qualified the risks and explained the likelihood of success.

Dr Camilleri said “Being able to treat recurrent prostate cancer with a repeated course of external beam radiotherapy is a new development that will provide a non-invasive alternative to prostate salvage therapy. Since starting treatment on the UKs first MRIdian MR linac in January 2020, we’ve been able to give hope to patients with previously difficult to treat tumours. Now we can look to treat even more patients and deliver a better quality of life to those with locally recurrent prostate cancer who otherwise had limited options.”

Before treatment began Laurence had a transperineal targeted prostate biopsy to confirm the exact location of the tumour and at the same time had a rectal spacer inserted. Spacers are used to protect the rectum during radiotherapy treatment by moving it away from the prostate gland to reduce the side effects of prostate radiotherapy.  They are inserted during a one-off procedure and are gradually absorbed and eliminated naturally from the body through the urine.

Laurence was then ready for treatment. He had 5 appointments each one lasting between 40 minutes to an hour.  Before each session he chose to take a mild sedative as he was concerned that he may feel claustrophobic whilst being treated on the machine. He was relieved to find that the treatment was completely painless, there was no downtime and he continued with all his everyday activities and was even out running during the days in between treatment sessions.

Laurence said “This new treatment is an exciting development and gives hope to me and other men looking for an effective treatment for recurrent prostate cancer. I’ve been really impressed with the facilities, treatment and staff at GenesisCare – it’s been a very positive experience”.

Commenting on the case, Dr Camilleri say’s “Laurence had no sign of cancer beyond the prostate, therefore with the disease confined to the gland alone and no significant ongoing side effects following on from his initial radiotherapy treatment meant he was suitable for treatment on the MRIdian.  Also, his cancer was proven to be regrowing in the prostate on biopsies and he had no major concerns with the practicalities of treatment which included lying in the MR linac for up to an hour each visit.”

Dr Camilleri continues, “Laurence coped extremely well with the additional therapy, developing no additional effects other than mild and temporary urinary symptoms. He continued to exercise on a regular basis, during and after his treatment. It is too early to be able to take a view on the success or otherwise of his treatment, but his initial PSA levels have fallen satisfactorily at this early stage.”

If you’d like to know more about prostate cancer reirradiation and the MRIdian, click here.

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Cleo’s story – treatment options for breast cancer

After her breast cancer diagnosis, Cleo feared she was facing an inevitable mastectomy and chemotherapy until she found out other treatment options were available for her particular cancer.

Cleo was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2021, aged 59 and is the first to admit that she ‘loves her boobs’. She had always been disciplined about attending her routine breast screening mammograms since she turned 50. However, she also admits to not being quite so diligent about self-examination. She’d always thought, “It’s not going to happen to me”, but when her latest routine mammogram uncovered two quite significant lumps in her left breast, she automatically knew it wasn’t good news.

The resulting scans and biopsy quickly revealed that Cleo had grade 3 invasive lobular breast cancer. She was told there was one obvious tumour and one that was less easy to see.

“I was quite cavalier about my health at that stage, and I never thought it would happen to me. But once the tests started, I knew what was coming, and I feared the worst”. At this stage she assumed that treatment would automatically involve a mastectomy and chemotherapy and was understandably devastated.

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Angela’s story – breast cancer and preventative surface-guided radiotherapy

Angela, who is 59-years-old and from Coventry, was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2020 following a routine mammogram.

In June, Angela had a mammoplasty operation through the NHS to remove the Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS) which was in one of her milk ducts. Adjuvant (or preventative) radiotherapy was due to take place soon after but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Angela’s NHS treatment was delayed so she decided to use her private medical insurance.

Angela was referred to Consultant Oncologist Dr Penny Kechagioglou and they agreed she would have FAST-Forward* five-fraction breast and tattoo-free radiotherapy treatment. This meant that Angela could have her radiotherapy treatment shortened to 5 days as five-fraction breast treatment delivers higher radiation therapy over fewer sessions. It allowed Angela, who lives alone, to get back to seeing friends and family faster following a reduced period of self-isolation.

The tattoo-free treatment was delivered using surface-guided radiation therapy and means Angela has no permanent reminder of the cancer on her skin.

Angela’s treatment took place at the end of August and she is now looking forward to planning her 60th birthday next year.

She said: “My diagnosis means I unfortunately missed some key family events such as my nephew’s 18th birthday – the first of my nephews’ birthdays I have ever missed – which is why I’m so grateful I’m not still waiting for breast cancer treatment and can start to put that part of my life behind me.”

We believe patients can be our teachers and trusted advisers, benefiting from their unique experiences.

Read more of our patient stories

*FAST-Forward is a large clinical research programme published in May 2020 which had shown that instead of receiving radiation over 15 treatments (or fractions) with an overall dose of 40Gy, breast cancer patients could safely undergo 5 treatments with 26Gy and achieve the same result. Based on this evidence, GenesisCare decided to make this available for all suitable patients.

Paula’s story – friendships formed and the experience of exercise medicine

Paula tells about her breast cancer ‘beast’ and experience of the Exercise Clinic introduced her to new friends that formed a WhatsApp group call GenesisBabes. Paula shares her advice to come to GenesisCare to meet the team and the calming environment. If you’d like to make an enquiry, please get in touch with us here.

Sarah’s story – breast cancer diagnosis and the environment GenesisCare creates

Sarah received radiotherapy and chemotherapy at GenesisCare in Newmarket and tells of her experience of having a ‘chemotherapy’ party and reassurance received from the team within the centre. If you’d like to make an enquiry, please get in touch with us here.

Tracey’s story – How exercise medicine helped improve her confidence and mental health

The Exercise Clinic helped Tracey with her mental health and wellbeing. Tracey tells about her friendships formed through the Exercise Clinic and that Joshilla, the Exercise Clinic Lead arranged for her to attend the Exercise Clinic in Australia when Tracey had to make an unplanned visit to her Mum. If you’d like to make an enquiry, please get in touch with us here.

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Alan’s story – MRIdian radiotherapy for liver metastases

Alan is 73 years old and a grandfather to seven. He lives in Chelmsford with his wife of 51 years and works 2 days a week on a consultancy basis as a chartered engineer.

Alan enjoys spending time with his growing family as well as walking, playing bridge with friends and playing guitar.

“I was diagnosed with bowel cancer in March 2019. I’d been participating in the NHS bowel cancer screening programme for some time, and it was through one of these routine tests I received my diagnosis.” Having not experienced any symptoms to alert him to see his GP, Alan’s diagnosis came as a shock and he was dealt a further blow when further investigations confirmed he had stage 4 bowel cancer, meaning it was advanced and had already spread to his liver and some lymph nodes.

“I had surgery to remove the large bowel cancer and was quite quickly referred to Oncologist Dr Rafiqul Islam for chemotherapy.”

Dr Islam advises, “Alan was seen in an NHS clinic and was offered combination chemotherapy. During our consultation we discussed the options available to ensure we could achieve the best possible outcomes for him and discussed an additional drug called Bevacizumab (Avastin).

Avastin is an antibody which reduces the blood supply to the tumour starving it of nutrition and has been shown to improve the overall outcome in patients with bowel tumours. In many countries this is the first line standard of care for this tumour type, but unfortunately it wasn’t available to Alan on the NHS.”

Having private medical insurance, Alan said “It was very easy to activate my private insurance. I simply contacted my insurer and informed them of my condition and gave them the name of my consultant and everything was taken care of.”

“Since then, I’ve been receiving Avastin in combination with two chemotherapy drugs, 5- Fluorouracil and Irinotecan, which are used to treat bowel cancers. The treatment is delivered through a portacath (a small medical device that provides direct access to a central vein) in my chest and I’ve been having this every fortnight for more than two years”.

 

Whilst this is always administered by a healthcare professional, Alan’s been able to receive this treatment in the comfort of his own home and given the treatment lasts for 4 hours each time, it makes it an easier and more manageable experience than having to go into hospital each time.

“Until recently, this treatment regime had been reducing my cancer or at least keeping it stable, but when it started to become less effective Dr Islam started to look at different options’.”

Dr Islam confirms, “Up until September 2021 Alan was responding well to the chemotherapy, but a CT scan showed that the existing metastases in his liver had increased in number from 3 to 5. Because he had small but widely scattered tumours in his liver, he was a perfect candidate for stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) treatment on a new kind of radiotherapy machine, the MRIdian”.

The MRIdian is exclusively available in the UK at GenesisCare and one of the big advantages of its innovative technology is that it enables clinicians to see as they treat, meaning they can target moving tumours, such as those in the liver, whilst protecting surrounding healthy organs and tissue. Because our organs move when we breath, unlike other radiotherapy machines the MRIdian automatically pauses treatment when the tumour is outside of the target area and only resumes when it’s back in the target zone.

“During my treatment sessions I could watch and see the tumour and the target area on a screen. They had circles drawn around them and by controlling my breathing, I could help line them up so that everything was in the right place for treatment to take place. Once I’d mastered the breathing technique it was quite straight forward, and it gave me a sense of control”.

Alan received his MRIdian radiotherapy in just 5 treatment sessions – one every other day at the GenesisCare Centre for Radiotherapy at the Cromwell Hospital in London.

“Each of my treatment sessions lasted around 2.5 hours including the required preparation time. The actual treatment was about 20 – 30 minutes long.”

“I did experience tiredness and fatigue which increased quite a bit after each treatment session but since my treatment’s finished the tiredness has subsided and my energy levels are returning.” Despite these side effects and as someone who recognises the benefits of exercise, Alan’s kept up with his daily walks and other exercise.

“The treatment itself is painless. The team at GenesisCare have been great and they made me feel my welfare was their only concern. This treatment has given me hope and I would recommend it to anyone else considering it. It’s always important to go for the treatment that will give you the best possible outcome”.

Dr Islam confirms “using the MRIdian in Alan’s case enabled us to ablate the lesions in his liver and allowing him to continue with the same chemotherapy regime for longer. As a result, Alan’s tumour markers have reduced, and his recent MRI scan has shown that all treated lesions have reduced significantly from 14-17 mm to 4-5 mm in size. He has now restarted the same chemotherapy regime as before and I will continue to monitor his progress”.

Click here to find out more about MRIdian radiotherapy for liver cancers.

Michael’s story – prostate cancer treatment journey at GenesisCare

Michael was concerned when his libido dropped and went to see his GP for a blood test. Michaels PSA was above average when he got diagnosed with prostate cancer. Michael tells about the personal interactions experienced with the team at the Windsor centre when having his treatment, attending the exercise clinic and visits to Penny Brohn. If you’d like to make an enquiry, please get in touch with us here.

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Doug’s story – A follow up 10 months post treatment on the MRIdian for prostate cancer

Doug was the first GenesisCare patient to undergo ground-breaking radiotherapy treatment on the MRIdian MR Linac. We catch up with Doug and his consultant Dr Philip Camilleri 10 months after his treatment finished.

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David’s story – skin cancer discovery and radiotherapy

In May 2020, David became aware of a small patch of yellow skin on the tip of his nose. He ignored it for a couple of months but then it started to slightly bleed on occasion. Following a round of golf with a friend of his who is a retired GP, his friend urged him to get it checked out by a medical professional.

David contacted his private medical insurer and was referred to a dermatologist. A biopsy was taken and unfortunately it was confirmed as a Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC). BCC is a non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) meaning it develops in the upper layers of the skin.

David was given a choice – either he could have surgery to have the BCC removed, or he could opt for radiotherapy. David chose the second option as it was a much less invasive treatment compared to surgery. After some research he was relieved to find that the latest radiotherapy treatment was offered close to his home at GenesisCare Nottingham.

Within a couple of days David attended the appointment with leading skin cancer expert Dr Eric Bessell who assured him that his treatment could start very soon. First, a bespoke mask would be created to protect the healthy skin surrounding the treatment area.

He was excited to learn that a new advanced technology would be used to create a mask to protect his healthy skin and that he would be the first UK patient to experience it. His face was scanned, and a 3-D mould was digitally printed from which the mask was made which fit perfectly over his face with only the treatment area being visible. The precision technology ensures the finished product gives a best possible fit and is available in all GenesisCare centres.

David also had a custom wax block produced. This was positioned over the top of the treatment area to reduce the amount of radiotherapy to underlying tissue. David also had nasal wax plugs inserted in both nostrils to reduce the dose to the inner lining. The advanced technology used in its development not only ensures a very accurate fit, but minimises any air gaps, and allows a uniform dose distributed to the whole treatment area.

The mask was manufactured within a few weeks and David started his Radiotherapy soon after, using an electron technique on a Linear Accelerator (Linac) machine.

He said “I had 15 fractions of radiotherapy sessions, over a period of a few weeks. I visited the centre every day but had a break at weekends. Each fraction lasted less than a minute and I didn’t feel a thing during or after treatment, it was completely pain free. I was extremely grateful to receive such excellent care – the appointments were organised quickly there was no wait time once the mask was created. The GenesisCare staff were fantastic, and the treatment and facilities were absolutely 5 stars. I am relieved to say that the cancer has been successfully treated and I am back playing golf and enjoying outdoor activities. Of course, I am very careful now and always make sure to wear a sun factor 50 or total block sunscreen. If I ever experience any problems in the future, I will not hesitate to access GenesisCare, they have provided an excellent service.”

If you are concerned about a change to a mole or a patch of skin, please arrange a medical appointment as soon as possible – early diagnosis is key to successful treatment.

Michelle’s story – bonds and friendships found during chemotherapy

After learning that her birth mother had died of ovarian cancer and knowing she was at high risk of developing cancer herself, Michelle then had to deal with her own cancer diagnosis. She talks openly about her experience, how her good sense of humour and support network helped her through and what GenesisCare means to her. If you’d like to make an enquiry, please get in touch with us here.

Peter’s story – Radiotherapy for prostate cancer on the MRIdian MR Linac

Peter was diagnosed with prostate cancer in November 2019 following a visit to his GP, prompted by the fact he was experiencing sleep issues caused by routinely waking in the night to urinate. After a PSA test, and a series of scans and biopsies, Peter was diagnosed with locally advanced prostate cancer.

He was advised that treatment should commence quickly as the cancer had started to detach itself from the wall of the prostate, meaning there was a chance it could spread and become more difficult to treat.

Having initially gone through an NHS pathway, Peter decided to continue his journey using his private medical insurance. He was referred to Dr Prantik Das, a clinical oncologist at GenesisCare in Oxford, who specialises in prostate cancer.

Having played hockey for England’s over 70’s team for 2 years and being in the World Cup winning squad in 2018 Peter was concerned that major treatment or surgery could affect his quality of life and his ability to continue with his active lifestyle.

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Andrea’s story – GenesisCare helps dispel fears and worries during treatment

Andrea tells us about her experience of being diagnosed with cancer and her journey through being treated at GenesisCare, explaining why the little big things made a difference. If you’d like to make an enquiry, please get in touch with us here.

Ruth’s story – how deep inspiration breath hold helped during treatment

With a background in medical management, Ruth is a consultant for start-up medical practices and has a comprehensive healthcare knowledge working with private practices and hospitals. However, despite her familiarity with the medical sector, nothing could have prepared her for her diagnosis of breast cancer. In February 2021, Ruth spotted a change in her left breast. A small area around her left nipple appeared to be slightly raised and bumpy. She immediately booked a phone consultation with her GP who, unable to examine her during the pandemic, referred her to the GenesisCare One Stop Breast Clinic (OSBC) in Maidstone.

Ruth had an appointment at GenesisCare soon after. She saw a consultant who arranged a mammogram and ultrasound. Despite the changes she’d noticed, her left breast was perfectly healthy. However, during the thorough investigation, GenesisCare also checked her right breast. This diligence proved worthwhile as it identified a small tumour. Ruth felt extremely fortunate that it had been found so early. A sample was taken and histology confirmed she had Invasive ductal carcinoma, where abnormal cancer cells form in the milk ducts and spread into other parts of the breast tissue. This is the most common form of breast cancer and accounts for around 70% of all invasive breast cancers1.

Despite the bad news, Ruth felt relieved to have had such thorough examinations carried out all on one day. The swift diagnosis meant she could access treatment very quickly and within two weeks of diagnosis she had surgery. This involved a lumpectomy and nodes removed from under her arm. She was then referred to GenesisCare oncologist, Dr Russell Burcombe, to discuss further treatment options.

Ruth was told her treatment would comprise five doses of radiotherapy over one week. Radiation is very effective at destroying cancer cells, but great care needs to be taken to make sure it doesn’t reach nearby organs such as the heart and lungs, where it could also cause damage.

At GenesisCare our radiotherapists are extremely skilled at using a technique called DIBH (Deep Inspiration Breath Hold) to protect the heart on the left side, during radiotherapy. It’s a technique that we’ve now started using on the right side too, because studies have shown the benefits to patients of protecting the right lung and liver as much as possible.

It may seem a simple idea, but the success lies in the clever technology used at GenesisCare called surface-guided radiotherapy (SGRT).  This uses sophisticated CT scan images to line up the radiation with the patient’s position with absolute precision before and during every treatment.  Our highly skilled dosimetrists use these images to carefully plan how much radiation is going to reach the edges of the treatment area. So, when you hold your breath, as well as moving your lung and liver further away, we know that the exact amount of radiation is directed precisely at the treatment area. The equipment also monitors very tiny movements during treatment, so if you move even slightly, the radiation beam automatically switches off.

Not only does this approach protect nearby organs, it also ensures the cancer is targeted precisely. DIBH allows us to offer many of the modern radiotherapy techniques for breast cancer.  The extra accuracy means we can target the cancer cells even better, and confidently give the radiotherapy in just five treatments

Ruth said “The technique involves breathing in deeply and holding your breath for about 20 seconds regularly throughout your treatment. Each time you do this, you raise your chest wall which creates distance between the area receiving radiotherapy and surrounding healthy organs, such as the heart, lungs and liver. As a patient, it gives you extra peace of mind that your treatment is being delivered where you need it and that we’re keeping everything around it as protected as possible. I was told I would need to hold my breath during treatment for a period of about 20 seconds, so I went home and practised around the house. Every time I put the kettle on, I would see how long I could hold my breath for. I am sure that being a swimmer and singing in an amateur choir really helped me with this. I found I was easily able to hold my breath for this length of time and, during the next week, I managed to extend my breath for a total of 40 seconds! Although this length of time wasn’t necessary it does show that by practising you can extend your original breath hold greatly.”

Ruth went for a planning scan before treatment started and demonstrated that she could hold her breath for 20 seconds. She was anxious about panicking during treatment, but her mind was quickly put at ease when the team let her know that they would go at a pace that suited her and could pause at any time during treatment until she felt relaxed enough to continue.

There was a countdown clock on the machine that showed the amount of time left of treatment which Ruth found useful as it gave her something to focus on. She found that breathing in this way was relaxing and felt like a calming exercise, keeping her focussed on her breath and helping her to alleviate any anxiety.

The whole experience, from diagnosis to treatment, was mentally exhausting. Being told you have cancer is stressful, but Ruth felt safe in the knowledge that she was being looked after very well by experts.

Ruth said “The care package I received was very comprehensive. My treatment was complimented with reflexology as GenesisCare really understand that integrated cancer care is very important. They offer exercise medicine and advice on health and nutrition to ensure every patient receives all round personalised care. The care I received has been superb.”

Dr Burcombe said “GenesisCare use the most modern radiotherapy technology available to ensure accurate treatment delivery. As an oncologist, DIBH radiotherapy means I can be sure we are targeting the cancer, minimising the dose to surrounding organs and maximising outcomes for our patients”

Find out more about deep inspiration breath hold for breast cancer.

Philip’s story – what to expect when having a PET/CT scan

Philip explains about what he experienced on his PET/CT diagnostic scan appointment to prepare for his treatment. If you’d like to make an enquiry, please get in touch with us here.

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Ian’s story – prostate cancer radiotherapy at GenesisCare

After loosing a colleague to prostate cancer Ian asked his GP for a PSA blood test. Three days later he was given the news that his PSA levels were extremely high and following biopsies and procedures was given the devastating news that his cancer was inoperable and had started to spread. Ian was referred to GenesisCare for radiotherapy and talks about his experience and why he recommends GenesisCare to others. If you’d like to make an enquiry, please get in touch with us here.

Paul’s Story – 177Lutetium PSMA therapy for advanced prostate cancer

Paul from West Cambridge is a retired businessman, who at 78, is married with three children and nine grandchildren. He was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2005 and has had treatment with chemotherapy, radiotherapy and in the last 10 years, hormone therapy.

Throughout his treatment, he had frequent PSA tests to help monitor his progress. Two years ago, his PSA levels began to increase, an indication that his disease was becoming resistant to the hormone treatment. It was during this time that his wife was having cancer treatment at GenesisCare in Cambridge and Paul raised the topic of his own health with his wife’s treating clinician. An innovative new treatment, 177Lutetium PSMA therapy, a treatment for men with advanced prostate cancer was mentioned and having read through the documentation provided, Paul asked to be referred to Dr Yong Du, Consultant Physician in Nuclear Medicine & PET/CT at GenesisCare.

Paul said, “Having discovered the hormone treatment was no longer effectively treating my cancer, I was pleased to have another option available to me.”

Paul had a 68Gallium PSMA PET/CT scan to confirm whether he could benefit from 177Lutetium PSMA therapy. The scan confirmed he was suitable, and he was able to start his treatment two weeks later.

The treatment itself is a very simple process involving an injection of 177Lutetium PSMA into a vein in your arm. It’s usually given every six to eight weeks, typically over six cycles as an outpatient in our purpose-built Theranostics suite in Windsor. Paul had eight sessions over 15 months. The treatment was pain free with just a few very mild side effects.

Of his treatment, Paul said, “Compared to the other treatments, I’ve found 177Lutetium PSMA therapy easy to tolerate. It feels like a kinder therapy. I haven’t experienced any side effects other than mild fatigue and a dry mouth, which only lasted for a couple of days each time”. He continues “It’s allowed me to maintain my quality of life and continue with my normal day to day living.”

Commenting on Paul’s case, Dr Yong Du said “Paul had suffered progressive metastatic prostate cancer and despite multiple lines of hormonal treatment, his disease continued to progress, and he was experiencing bone pain. Following treatment with Theranostics, where he received eight cycles of 177Lutetium PSMA therapy, he achieved a significant PSA reduction from a baseline value of 327.0 to 18.5 and his bone pain has resolved.”

He continues, “Paul has had a very good response to treatment both symptomatically, affording him a good quality of life, and a significant reduction in his PSA levels”.

Mary’s story – treatment for liver cancer on the MRIdian MR Linac

64-year-old Mary from Staffordshire was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer in 2014 and had been treated with surgery, conventional radiotherapy and chemotherapy when a scan revealed that her cancer had unfortunately spread to her liver. Her doctors felt neither surgery or conventional radiotherapy were an option because there were three tumours throughout her liver.

Instead, Mary was able to have treatment on the MRIdian – a ground-breaking new cancer technique which targets difficult-to-treat tumours – at the GenesisCare centre in Oxford. The MRIdian is a type of linear accelerator – a machine that directs beams of energy to permanently destroy cancer cells – combined with an in-built MRI scanner.

Mary underwent a course of five sessions over two weeks, with very few side effects other than a little tenderness. After 3 months an MRI scan showed that the liver tumours were almost completely gone, and a scan at six months showed no active cancer.

Mary has since been able to work full-time in her IT consultancy and spend time gardening. Ongoing drug therapy will help maximise the possibility of controlling her cancer. She said: “After years of running away from my cancer and different therapies, I feel I’ve been thrown a lifeline by receiving this revolutionary treatment.”

We believe patients can be our teachers and trusted advisers, benefiting from their unique experiences.

Read more of our patient stories

Anniliese

Anniliese’s story – how GenesisCare helped ease any worries

Anneliese was diagnosed with breast cancer and was referred by her oncologist to GenesisCare. Anneliese talks about taking advantage of GenesisCare’s complimentary wellbeing services and why she would recommend GenesisCare to others. If you’d like to make an enquiry, please get in touch with us here.

Liz’s story – MRIdian radiotherapy for inoperable pancreatic cancer

Liz was a career minded woman, named IT Woman of the Year in Belfast, while looking after a young family. “Everything at work and home was going really well until a bombshell hit” in August 2020.

Liz had been experiencing digestive issues for three months but blood tests with her GP were inconclusive. A swollen and painful abdomen in August 2020 led her to visit A&E, where she underwent various tests, before a CT scan revealed a tumour, and a follow up MRI scan confirmed a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

Liz comments on the diagnosis: “While there were tell-tale signs for a while, you tell yourself it couldn’t be that, so the diagnosis was a shock. I don’t think there’s ever a good time to receive that news, but when things are going well, it’s just like your life explodes. It all felt a bit surreal from then.”

Liz began a treatment pathway with the NHS, and it was initially believed that the tumour was operable. However, on the operating table in October 2020, surgeons realised they couldn’t proceed as the tumour was wrapped around her portal vein, a main vein that drains the blood from the gastrointestinal tract. Liz comments: “It was a bit of a roller coaster – getting a diagnosis like that, to then be told you’re eligible for surgery, then going into surgery and finally finding out that your tumour is inoperable. Even though surgery is not always a cure, when you have a tumour in your body, you just want it out.”

In November 2020, Liz began a tough regime of chemotherapy in the hope that it would shrink the tumour enough for an operation to be safe. After 6 cycles of chemotherapy despite it keeping things stable it was evident there wasn’t a significant tumour response and in February 2021, she was advised by her surgeon that it was unlikely the tumour would ever be operable.

To receive such devastating news and that palliative care was the next step, Liz didn’t want to give up hope. In her professional life in cyber security Liz does a lot of research into new technologies and protocols, and just like at work, she spent time researching innovations into cancer treatment and treatment protocols. She read articles about a new technology being used by GenesisCare and spoke to her case manager at her private health care provider who connected her with Dr James Good, Clinical Director of Stereotactic Radiotherapy at GenesisCare in Oxford.

Within just two phone calls Liz was having a Zoom consultation with Dr Good, who explained about SABR radiotherapy treatment on the MRIdian Linac and the emerging results from across the globe. As quickly as that everything was in place for Liz, and her family, to travel to Oxford for treatment, which took place over two weeks in June 2021.

Liz was treated on the UK’s first MRIdian Linac at GenesisCare in Oxford, which uses innovative radiotherapy technology to treat tumours using live images, meaning clinicians can see in ‘real time’ as they treat. It combines live imagery and automated beam control to avoid healthy tissue being damaged during treatment. If a tumour moves, even slightly, the treatment will automatically pause until it comes back into position.

This greater accuracy allows a higher dose of radiation to be administered, without an increased risk of side effects.

Liz had just five sessions of radiotherapy, ranging from 45 minutes to an hour in length. With minimum disruption and side effects it meant she and her family were able to enjoy their time in Oxford. Liz comments: “For the day I was in treatment, I was able to go back to our apartment and rest and my husband would take the kids to the parks nearby. I took it easy but we were able to have a holiday, visiting London, Legoland and the Cotswold Country Park whilst we were there – we have really nice memories of our time there.”

But importantly, this course of treatment led to Liz’s tumour shrinking considerably, to the point that she was now, unexpectedly suitable for surgery and in December 2021 the tumour was successfully removed.

Liz comments: “It’s very rare that a surgeon opens up a person twice. I was planned to have a very risky operation where the surgeon would team up with a vascular surgeon to do a vascular resection in addition to the normal procedure, but it turned out that the tumour had come away from the vein. I don’t know what the future holds for me in terms of what the disease will do – nobody can predict that. However, I do genuinely believe that the treatment has given me more time with my family which is all anyone really wants. At the very least, the treatment has delayed the progression of the disease.”

The success of radiotherapy on the MRIdian in giving Liz more time with her family comes as a recent study of 148 patients found that this treatment doubles the median survival rate of patients with inoperable pancreatic cancer, when compared with historical outcomes from conventional treatment.

The findings of this are significant because, at diagnosis, only 20% of pancreatic patients are eligible for surgery and the prognosis for inoperable pancreatic cancer patients is especially poor.

Dr Good comments “MRIdian gives us the confidence to treat challenging tumours, like those in the pancreas, with the higher doses of radiation needed to achieve better outcomes for patients like Liz. The GenesisCare team is so proud to have been given the opportunity to help her in this way.”

Find out more about MRIdian radiotherapy for pancreatic cancer here.

Tony’s story – MRIdian radiotherapy for inoperable bowel cancer

Tony was first diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer in the Autumn of 2018.  Here he shares his story, talks us through his treatment journey and tells us how he’s getting on with life now.

“It all started when my dad came to visit in August 2018, and the first words he said to me were ‘crikey, you look awful!’ As I had a routine diabetes check up with my GP shortly after his visit, I asked them and they sent me for a blood test.” When his results came back his GP asked him to go straight to A&E.  Further investigations and scans showed Tony had a 17cm tumour which had wrapped itself around the bowel. Of his diagnosis, Tony explains “I was really shocked as I hadn’t been feeling ill and hadn’t noticed any of the tell-tale signs you hear about. It was quite scary, and it was a big operation to have.” Soon after Tony underwent an intensive six-hour surgery to remove the tumour, followed by four months of chemotherapy which ended in February 2019, when he was given an initial all-clear.

Unfortunately, follow-up scans in September 2019 detected a single malignant lymph node tumour that had grown right next to the source of blood supply for the bowel. Due to its location, Tony was told that the tumour was inoperable by his doctors in Worcester. His scans were sent on to specialists in Manchester and Basingstoke, both of which concluded that the highly invasive surgery available would be too great a risk. 

Charles

Charles' story - MRIdian radiotherapy

Charles shares his experience of receiving MRIdian radiotherapy for a lymph node on his aorta and what having this treatment has meant to him. His treatment was completed in 5 outpatient sessions over the course of two weeks in October 2020 at our GenesisCare Centre in Oxford.

Anne’s story – how an integrative cancer care approach aided her recovery

Following a routine mammogram, Anne aged 60, was shocked to learn that she had developed breast cancer. Read Anne’s story to discover how an integrative cancer care approach at GenesisCare at the Cromwell Hospital in London, aided her recovery and helped get her life back on track.