Over 2000 people living in Northumberland are diagnosed with and treated for cancer each year, and more than 13,000 people are living with cancer.
Whilst the number of people diagnosed with cancer each year in Northumberland is high, due in part to an older population, it is a notable achievement that the number as a proportion of the population (the ‘incidence rate’), after adjusting for age, is not increasing. This is in contrast to the rest of England.
However, lung cancer incidence is significantly higher than in England, particularly in the less affluent south east corner of the county. And, whilst survival from cancer is improving locally and nationally, Northumberland lags behind England in terms of lung cancer survival.
Also, after adjusting for age, the incidence rates for breast cancer is significantly higher in Northumberland than England, and incidence is increasing. Patients also often presented later than the UK average, and the uptake of mammography was dropping.
Northumbria developed a number of integrated cancer services to address local challenges in prevention, diagnosis, treatment and palliative care. They are based on international best practice and evidence, and are underpinned by the national cancer strategy, Achieving World-Class Cancer Outcomes: A Strategy for England 2015-2020; the Northern Cancer Alliance and The Northumberland Cancer Strategy.
Priority 1: Spearhead a radical upgrade in prevention and public health;
Priority 2: Drive a national ambition to achieve earlier diagnosis;
Priority 3: Establish patient experience as being on a par with clinical effectiveness and safety;
Priority 4: Transform approach to support people living with and beyond cancer; and
Priority 5: Modern high quality and integrated services.
Public health programmes are provided across multi-agencies and schools to help people to make healthy lifestyle choices, reduce obesity, smoking and alcohol consumption to help prevent certain types of cancer.
Northumbria has extensive screening programmes, delivered in primary care, to increase early cancer detection rates, including cervical cancer. These screening programmes also operate in hospitals and outreach services to detect other forms of cancer including colorectal, lung and breast.
While patients need to attend a general hospital for more complex investigations, the more routine tests such as blood tests and x-rays can be carried out closer to home.
Northumbria provides a one-stop breast outpatient clinic for patients with symptomatic breast lumps and other symptoms raising suspicion of breast cancer. Patients have same-day triple assessment of imaging, cytology, clinical examination, and then diagnosis.
“I had brilliant care and support. The whole procedure from seeing the consultant to having the tests to seeing the consultant again lasted 2 hours. Everyone was helpful and informative. A very impressing and quick service. Thanks to all involved.”
User of Northumbria One Stop Breast Clinic
Consultants and nurses are specialists in different types of cancer who quickly arrange any treatment that may be necessary. Patients are seen by the specialist most appropriate to their condition.
Patients are allocated a team of nurses for advice and support during their care. A nurse who specialises in the specific type of cancer will support the patients throughout their care and treatment.
Oncology day units are based at the general hospitals and at community hospital. Before starting any treatment patients are given a pre-assessment and to meet the staff who will be caring for them.
The oncology day units offer a wide variety of chemotherapy treatment delivered by specialist nurses, as well as supporting treatments including blood transfusions, and removal of fluid from the chest or abdomen (known as pleural aspirations and paracentesis).
Other investigations such as bone marrow biopsies can also be carried out in the units. Each day unit also offers a range of free complimentary therapies which can support patients through treatment such as reflexology, Indian head massage and body massage.
Chemotherapy patients are given a chemotherapy record book and an information booklet introducing them to the unit. The consultant fully explains treatments including side effects of chemotherapy such as hair loss. Northumbria provides patients advice on dealing with this and also offers a service providing a selection of hats, scarves and wigs. Charitable funds pay for this. Other treatments at the hospital include scalp cooling if the consultant recommends it.
During treatment patients are mainly cared for by their specialist nursing team and consultant. They could also be seen by other professionals including radiologists, histopathologists, occupational therapists, clinical psychologists, dieticians, Macmillan nurses; social workers or Macmillan benefits advisors if needed.
Northumbria also provides outstanding palliative care for those patients nearing the end of life. Northumbria’s Palliative Care Service (the largest in the UK) provides a fully integrated service:
- Provides planned and unplanned care 24 x 7;
- Teams work in all hospitals and see patients in their own home, outpatient clinics or day hospices. There is also a palliative care unit for those patients who need to stay in hospital;
- Provides family support including in the final stages of life where they may panic and request hospital admission despite not being at the patient request;
- Provides emotional and practical support for patients, carers and family members with specialist input where needed; and
- Utilises enabling technology e.g. virtual ward rounds.
- The service aims to provide relief from pain and other distressing symptoms and offers support to help patients live as actively as possible until the end of their life. Importantly, the service also supports their family to cope during the patient’s illness and in their own bereavement.
- Northumbria’s patients have rated the cancer service among the best in the UK when compared to similar survey ratings for services across the country;
- Northumbria is consistently rated in the top ten providers of cancer (Macmillan cancer patient experience survey);
- Northumberland’s breast cancer One Year Survival rate of 97.8% is higher than the UK average of 96.5%
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