In a 'UK first', a new service that will make it easier to check for womb cancer has launched across Somerset.
Patients who are concerned they may have the condition will now be able to make a self referral, rather than going through their GP.
Mr David Milliken, a consultant gynaecological oncologist at the NHS Somerset Foundation Trust said: “This new service is great news as it means people will be able to get a diagnosis for womb cancer much earlier than before. We estimate that we’ll see up to 50 patients a week at our clinics.
“We are seeing a year-on-year increase in referrals to our gynaecology cancer services for those who potentially have cancer – mainly those who’re experiencing post-menopausal bleeding.
“In fact, over the last year we’ve seen more than a 30 per cent increase in the number of patients needing our care and treatment.
“We know that our GP colleagues tend to refer their patients to our service if they have post-menopausal bleeding symptoms anyway, so by allowing patients to access our service direct via a self-referral, we can avoid any unnecessary delays and get them an appointment much quicker. It also has the added bonus of freeing up our GP colleagues to see patients with other conditions.
“More than nine out of every ten patients referred to our service will not have a cancer. We hope this service will help to reassure the majority of people more quickly and help identify those who do need further treatment sooner.
“The idea is that if anyone has symptoms and wants to be seen, they can either access our service through our website, or by calling us. Whichever route they take to reach us, they’ll get asked a number of questions to determine whether our service is right for them, or whether we need to direct them to their GP practice.
“A practitioner will provide an initial assessment at the clinic, which involves an ultrasound scan. Then, depending on the result of the ultrasound, there are a number of different options, from reassurance that there’s nothing wrong, to an examination, biopsy, or referral into hospital for treatment.
“Before we set about developing the service, we asked our patients how they’d like it to run through a series of surveys. The overwhelming feedback was that people would prefer to be seen at a community hospital closer to where they live than having to travel into the larger district general hospitals.
“We’ve therefore made it easier to get to an appointment by running the clinics across the whole of Somerset. Appointments are available at Yeovil District Hospital and the community hospitals in Bridgwater, Minehead, South Petherton, Wellington, West Mendip (Glastonbury) and Wincanton."