Sunday, 11 March 2018

A Good News Story of Fusion Food and FUSION Technology

I had one of my favourite meals out last week. It was ‘Vegetarian Fish and Chips’. I do like this meal, so please forgive me if I mention it once more – halloumi cheese in crispy batter, big chunky old fashioned golden chips, garden peas and tartare sauce. Delicious, and if you want to try out the idea, here is an easy recipe for halloumi fries, a great taster dish – the full meal recipe can be found here. Best of all I was being treated to the meal by my good friend and colleague Karen (now to be found on Twitter too - @Catheri39809315 ).

One of the things Karen is involved in is the editorship of the Nurse Education in Practice journal. We were having dinner to discuss business and catch up on the changes in each other’s lives. It was a lovely evening and productive too. One of the business matters was starting a conversation around what a social media strategy for the journal might focus on. I have just taken on the role of Social Media Editor for Nurse Education in Practice, and have started to become acquainted with the journal's Twitter account. @NurseEdinPrac and what its aim of promoting communication about global nursing and midwifery education might mean. So watch this space!

Whilst Karen and I talked about many things, one of the topics that didn’t feature that evening was prostate cancer. Prostate cancer has been much in the news last week. Last week the former BBC Breakfast host, Bill Turnbull, disclosed that he had been diagnosed with the disease, which had spread to the bones in his legs, hips, pelvis and ribs. His prognosis is not good. There is no cure for his condition and sadly, his cancer will be a life shortening. He talked of the shock of receiving the diagnosis, and the ever present knowledge of now having to live with cancer day after day. He described this as BC, before cancer, when life was normal and then AC, after cancer, when life becomes very different. However, he also said that he didn’t want the rest of his life to be defined by his illness. I wish him well on his journey.

It is a journey that many men will undertake. One man in six will get prostate cancer. It is the most common malignancy (other than skin cancer) diagnosed in men. Globally, around 1.1 million men will be diagnosed every year, with more than 300,000 dying from the disease each year. In the UK, 40,000 new case are diagnosed every year. Whilst the disease has the potential to grow and spread very quickly, for most men it is a slow growing disease. Many men do not experience any symptoms, and so don’t routinely get tested. Some of the symptoms, such as sexual dysfunction would be noticed by most men. However, by the time such symptoms become evident, the cancer is likely to have become quite advanced, and as such, more difficult to treat.

In the UK there isn’t a national screening programme for prostate cancer like there is for breast and bowel cancers, partly because the current diagnostic tests are either too unreliable or carry risks and unpleasant side effects. The PSA test can suggest prostate cancer when no cancer exists (a false-positive result). Indeed 15% of men with prostate cancer have normal PSA levels (a false-negative result). Given this unreliability, there is a degree of controversy over the age that men should start to be screened. In the US it’s recommended for all men over the age of 45, in the UK it's 50. My advice would be if you are worried, or experiencing any of the symptoms (see here) then go and discuss the options with your GP. 

So it was great to read last week of the NHS using cutting edge technology to deal with these issues. The new approach not only massively reduces the time from test to diagnosis, but also reduces the risk of patients contacting sepsis. The whole intervention can be undertaken in a ‘one-stop-shop’ in just 1 day rather than many visits over a 4-6 week period. The new ‘rapid pathway’ approach, currently being developed in 3 hospitals across London, enables men to have a MRI –mpMRI scan. These are scanners that provide a higher quality imagery. Dependent on the result, if needed, they can then have a biopsy using new FUSION technology.

The FUSION scanners overlay ultrasound images with 3D MRI scans to create a highly detailed map of the prostate allowing much greater accuracy in targeting suspect areas. It’s so good that an area as small as a grain of rice can be hit first time. It was truly world-leading research that has led to this exciting clinical development. The NHS is determined to cut mortality rates for prostate cancer in the same way that has seen breast cancer rates decline by 10%. I think they are well on the way, something that as a man I am pleased about and as a citizen of the UK, and a great fan of the NHS, it's something I think we should all be proud about.