Tattoo-free radiotherapy benefiting the wellbeing of cancer patients undergoing treatment at UHDB | Latest news

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Tattoo-free radiotherapy benefiting the wellbeing of cancer patients undergoing treatment at UHDB

Radiotherapy Team

UHDB radiographers are now using a state-of-the-art technique to treat cancer patients more effectively, without leaving them with permanent reminders of what they’ve been through for everyone to see.

Surface Guided Radiotherapy (SGRT) targets tumours even more accurately than techniques used before but crucially doesn’t rely on marks being left on the skin to do this – meaning patients are not left with these “tattoos” following their treatment.

Having these marks can have a really big impact on the wellbeing of a patient, especially where the dots are more visible – say, for someone who has been treated for breast cancer – so being able to offer tattoo-free radiotherapy will undoubtedly make a big difference to these patients.

SGRT uses thermal cameras to map out an image of the patient’s skin surface before treatment begins, so that all the radiation can be directed into the right areas with pinpoint accuracy, with the technique taking less time to complete, whilst also reducing the amount of imaging required.

This technique has been offered at Royal Derby Hospital since the summer, with every single patient that has undergone SGRT since then benefitting from not being left with radiotherapy tattoos, which is a first for any NHS centre in the UK.

Dave Pilborough, Superintendent Radiographer, said: “We’re extremely pleased to now be able to offer Surface Guided Radiotherapy, which has had a great impact on treatment times for our patients. With this system, we have a lot more control over where the patient is lying, which makes it a lot easier for us to get them in exactly the right position, which is crucial for their treatment.

“We also don’t need to leave marks on the skin whilst using this technique, which has been a great relief to our patients, especially those with breast cancer, where the tattoos can be quite visible. Patients usually read up about the marks before starting radiotherapy, so not having to mention that has helped calm patients down and made them a lot less anxious about their treatment. It’s great that we’ve taken this step forward and helped improve patient experience in this way.”

The Radiotherapy team at Royal Derby Hospital worked tirelessly behind the scenes to get the Trust in a position to be able to implement SGRT without tattoos straight away – from day 1, patient 1 – by training staff up in advance.

UHDB was the first NHS Trust in the country to achieve this feat, with system providers VisionRT recognising this achievement recently by presenting the team with a Mark Free Award.

Dr Magnus Harrison, Executive Medical Director at UHDB, said: “We are exceptionally proud to have won this award, which is a great example of the strides that we’ve taken as a Trust to enhance our Radiotherapy service for the communities we serve. Although quite small, radiotherapy tattoos can often be a big deal to patients, in that they can invoke memories of having cancer – an extremely challenging period in a person’s life that they might want to leave far behind in the past.

“From the feedback that we’ve received since we introduced this new technique in the summer, being able to have this treatment tattoo-free has been a source of great comfort to our patients and helped them to feel a bit less anxious, before starting treatment. It is fantastic that we’ve been able to enhance patient experience in this way, whilst also offering an advanced radiotherapy technique that is even more accurate than before and can reduce length of treatment too.”

Radiotherapy Team