Bowel cancer scan breakthrough means Royal Stoke patients get rapid diagnosis


Patients worried they have bowel cancer are now getting diagnosed more rapidly thanks to innovative technology.

It means people who do have the disease can start treatment sooner and those who don’t can feel relief without a long and anxious wait.

The picture archiving and communication system (PACS) is being used at both Royal Stoke University Hospital and Stafford’s County Hospital.

The system enables clinicians to get scan results on the same day if they are positive, with a patient attending a clinic appointment two to three days later. Previously, it took up to a fortnight for doctors to receive these scan findings.

If the scan is negative, a letter is now sent out to the patient on the day the results are reported.

Medical experts can also carry out virtual chats to discuss the scan images and get second opinions. And radiologists can even work from home, while staying connected across multiple sites.

Dr Ingrid Britton, consultant gastrointestinal radiologist, said: “Before we had PACS, the radiographer would perform the scan, and then place imaging in a queue to be reported on by a radiologist. Then the report would be sent to a multidisciplinary team.

“But now we can identify patients with colorectal cancer even while they are still on the scanner.

“When radiographers see something during the scan, they alert the imaging team immediately, and using a simultaneous viewing feature in PACS, we can look at the imaging, irrespective of  the patient’s location and can report as the image is generated, notifying the referring clinician the same day when a patient is positive.

“It’s a very rapid way of escalating things, which ensures patients are on the right treatment path straight away.”

The University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust (UHNM) has one of the busiest imaging departments in the country, with more than 9,500 patients a week.

Dr Changez Jadun, clinical director for imaging at UHNM

Staff capture and report on a wide range of medical imaging, from simple x-rays to more complex CT and MRI scans.

PACS is now helping radiologists to cope with a 10 per cent year-on-year rise in demand. It is being piloted within the bowel cancer speciality, but is also being applied effectively in breast care and will be used with other specialities in future.

Dr Britton added: “If a patient knows their results straight away, they can have faith in the care we are providing. Getting the correct information promptly, right from the beginning, gives patients confidence.

“It’s equally important for someone to know that they don’t have cancer as quickly as possible. If we know, at the point of reporting, that someone doesn’t have cancer, we can now issue a standard letter from the colorectal cancer team directly to the patient which tells them so.”

Dr Changez Jadun, clinical director for imaging, said PACS is helping to transform the way they work.

He added: “In time, we hope the system will help with teaching tools for junior doctors, which will enable us to care for our patients better.”

The technology has been developed by the company Sectre.

Jane Rendall, managing director for UK and Ireland at Sectra, said: “I hope other hospitals can replicate this success to spread the same benefits to many more patients.”





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