Northern Ireland

NI hospital offers new procedure for diagnosing lung cancer

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Media captionJulian Fowler reports for BBC Newsline

A new technique for detecting lung cancer without the need for surgery is helping patients in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.

A thin flexible telescope, called an endobronchial ultrasound, is inserted through the patient's mouth and provides camera pictures and ultrasound images.

Samples can also be taken which can lead to faster diagnosis.

Dr Terence McManus uses the device in the South West Acute Hospital.

The 30-minute procedure is carried out under local anaesthetic and patients can normally return home the same day.

Dr McManus, a respiratory consultant, said: "It's a new technique that allows us to biopsy and diagnose conditions at an earlier stage.

"It can, in some cases, avoid the need for more invasive surgery techniques.

"Using this technique we can diagnose conditions such as cancer, inflammatory conditions, and sometimes infections as well."

Lung disease

He said it allowed doctors to "establish a diagnosis and then determine what is the most appropriate treatment for a patient as quickly as possible".

Approximately 900 people in Northern Ireland are diagnosed with lung cancer each year.

It is the second most common cancer among men and the third most common among women.

Stephen Hogan from Florencecourt, County Fermanagh, has lung disease and has undergone the procedure.

He described it as very simple and added it had no unpleasant side effects.

"The big difference for me is knowing where I'm at with the diagnosis and the referral on to the oncologist and then I know what my treatment options are. So, it actually gives you a sense of relief and it saves a lot of time.

"I'm dependent on some degree of oxygen so travelling between A and B is a bit of an issue and we're very lucky to have this brand new facility, so it's brilliant."

The South West Acute Hospital, which opened its doors six months ago, is the first in Northern Ireland to offer this service.

Joe Lusby, deputy chief executive of the Western Health Trust, said it demonstrated how the latest technology is benefiting patients in the new state-of-the-art hospital.

"Anything that provides a faster and more accurate diagnosis of lung disease is bound to be good for the patient," he said.

"This hospital is built for the next 60 years at least so what we were doing is not just transferring services across from the former Erne Hospital.

"We were determined to add services that were appropriate to provide locally so that people don't have to travel great distances to access these services."

About 90% of lung cancer cases are caused by smoking cigarettes and Dr McManus has also seen patients getting the disease at a younger age.

He said: "It can affect any age. Smoking is certainly the biggest risk factor so we would always emphasise the importance of stopping smoking as soon as possible, it's never too late to stop smoking."

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