The cancer centre at Mount Vernon provides specialist radiotherapy services to a wide catchment are covering North-west London and Hertfordshire, as well as parts of the Thames Valley and Bedfordshire.
The centre’s radiotherapy service comprises a multi-disciplinary team of clinical oncologists, specialist registrars, therapeutic radiographers, radiotherapy physicists and clinical technologists and administrators.
The radiotherapy equipment at Mount Vernon consists of conventional and CT simulators for planning treatment and linear accelerators for the delivery of radiotherapy treatment. Intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) is offered and used for prostate, rectum, gynaecological and head & neck tumours.
All the treatment machines and simulators are networked with the treatment planning computers used by our clinical physicists. This allows the smooth transfer of patient data from initial simulation to physics planning and, finally, to those providing patients with their treatment.
The introduction of in-vivo dosimetry, where we can measure the dose delivered as it is given, on all treatment units has further improved the quality of care we provide to our patients undergoing radiotherapy.
The treatment of bladder patients with Carbogen and Nicotinamide has been introduced following a clinical trial protocol aimed at enhancing the efficacy of radiation treatment for certain cases. Other radiotherapy trials are also on-going and patients are offered entry into a clinical trial whenever appropriate.
Each year some 50,000 fractions are treated with external beam radiotherapy and 600 fractions with brachytherapy.
Fiducial marker insertion for improved prostate localisation is part of imaged guided radiotherapy (IGRT) implementation, as well as for some CyberKnife patients. This service enables smaller treatment volumes to be delivered, which reduces patients’ side-effects to treatment.
The strategic goal of the cancer centre’s radiotherapy service is to have a rolling replacement programme to ensure state-of-the-art equipment is always available to treat our patients. The latest treatment machines will be capable of stereotactic and arc therapy, as well as IGRT. The most up-to-date simulators are capable of 4-D scanning, where the patient breathing cycle is taken into account.
Our clinic review radiographers hold on-treatment review clinics to ensure excellent care and support for their patients and carers throughout the treatment process, offering them information, advice and support. They apply their specialist knowledge of the radiotherapy process and side-effects, as well as using their critical decision-making skills to enhance patient care.
Clinic radiographers have also started a Macmillan-funded telephone follow-up project for prostate cancer patients, through which this group of patients are telephoned to assess their treatment side-effects and address any issues they may have. As a result, patient visits to the cancer centre are reduced and clinic radiographers can co-ordinate aftercare with a holistic assessment of their patients’ physical and psychosocial needs.
Our review radiographers are supplementary prescribers and can prescribe medication for radiotherapy induced side-effects, thus reducing the number of healthcare professionals that patients need to see.