Advanced surgery for ovarian cancer carried out at UHDB has been awarded prestigious international accreditation after achieving outstanding outcomes for patients.
The Derby Gynaecology Oncology Centre, which is based at Royal Derby Hospital, has been recognised by the European Society of Gynaecological Oncologists (ESGO) for providing exceptional care and delivering better outcomes as a result of more comprehensive surgery for ovarian cancer. This makes the Trust one of only 47 such centres in Europe to be recognised by ESGO.
It also makes the centre one of just seven centres in UK offering such a high level of care to ovarian cancer patients. Mr Viren Asher, Consultant Gynaecology Oncologist, said the recognition is a result of years of hard work:
“I joined the Trust back in 2013 and I started working on how to improve the care we offered for patients with ovarian cancer across Derbyshire.
“Research in the early 2000s showed that surgical removal of all visible ovarian cancer with more comprehensive surgery on the entire abdomen improved survival rates for patients. I trained in Manchester, in a centre that has an established service for treating cancers in the abdomen region, which are similar procedures that are needed in patients with advanced ovarian cancer.
“I brought this concept and knowledge with me to Derby with the support of surgical gynaecologist oncologist Mr Anish Bali, Clinical Director for Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the time, and we set about implementing this service here.
“It’s a big achievement and peer recognition from an international society and it makes us proud of how far we have come. It hasn’t been an easy journey as it involved a major change to the way we worked previously, so we had to make sure we got it right from the beginning. My heartfelt thanks go to all members of the MDT for their excellent patient care and support which has made this achievement possible.”
The changes made to the service involved carrying out a different type of surgery for ovarian cancer patients, which treats the whole abdomen rather than just the reproductive organs. The team have also created a database of patients in order to track the effectiveness of their procedure during their recovery.
Mr Andrew Phillips, who was appointed in 2017 after undertaking sub-speciality training in gynaecology oncology with a specific emphasis on ovarian cancer surgery, said:
“It’s a brilliant achievement. We’ve been working towards this for a long time and we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to do it. There were lots of extra hours’ worth of work that went into this.
“Since we adopted this change in how we perform surgery, we have seen an increase in the five-year survival in women from 22% to 42% with the most advanced ovarian cancer, stage 3 or 4, in those where more extensive surgery is now an option.
“This method has been shown as being far more effective for removing the whole cancer. Mr Asher and I have specifically trained in this type of surgery with the help of our other gynaecology oncologists, Mr Summi Abdul and Mr Anish Bali. As a result, we have been able to fully deliver this service and really make a difference to the lives of our patients.
“We started keeping even more detailed records of outcomes of ovarian cancer patients and generating data so that we could work towards what the ESGO laid out as part of their criteria. It’s a big achievement for us as we’re not the biggest centre and don’t do as many procedures as some larger hospitals, so to achieve accreditation, our outcomes following surgery had to be of the highest levels.”
Mr Anish Bali, Divisional Medical Director for Women’s and Children’s Services at UHDB, said:
“With growing evidence that comprehensive ovarian cancer surgery improves survival for patients with advanced ovarian cancer, as a department we felt it would be important to recruit consultants who are specially trained to provide this service. This has now been recognised internationally, which we are extremely proud of.
“In addition, we have also recently been recognised as a sub-speciality training centre for gynaecology oncology by the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.”
This comes just months after a study by the British Gynaecological Cancer Society found that survival rates for women treated for ovarian cancer in Derby and Derbyshire are the best in the East Midlands. Women treated for this form of cancer, between 2013 and 2017, had a five-year survival rate of 39.8% in the area covered by the NHS Derby and Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which UHDB is a part of.
According to statistics from Cancer Research UK, more than 7,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year.
Mr Phillips said: “Even when ovarian cancer is diagnosed at an advanced stage, we can have these ladies alive after five years and making people aware of that is crucial. We have the ability to give these ladies the best chance for survival.
“There isn’t really another cancer for which you can adopt this approach. Ovarian cancer responds really well to chemotherapy but it’s not perfect, so when combined with this more comprehensive surgery, it is a really effective method of treatment.
The hard work doesn’t stop here, however, as the team continue to improve care and survival rates for patients.
Mr Asher added: “We’re always looking for ways to develop. Our teams are now working more dynamically, and everyone is sharing best practice which helps us to continue to develop and grow.”
Anyone who has symptoms which they suspect may indicate cancer should immediately contact their GP for further advice and checks.