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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 June 2007, 18:56 GMT 19:56 UK
Cancer test surgeons scoop award
Breast cancer patients could be saved from a second operation
A team of surgeons who invented a test to confirm if a breast cancer has spread have scooped a medical award.

The University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, team won the Medical Futures awards' Best NHS Innovation prize.

The 30-minute test, carried out during breast cancer surgery, determines whether the cancer has spread to the patient's lymph nodes of the arm.

If the test is positive, surgery on the armpit takes place immediately, saving the need for a second operation.

The technique, which is believed to be carried out only in Cardiff, could be rolled out to NHS trusts across the UK.

Currently, most women who suffer from breast cancer in the UK have to wait days for lab results on lymph glands taken from their armpits during surgery.

Professor Robert Mansell, the head of the surgery team, said this wait could be reduced.

We are asking people to come and see us in Cardiff and see how easy it is to do
Professor Mansell

"Conventionally at the moment, [patients] have to wait up to two or three weeks to find out whether they have got spread of their cancer, which is a terrible time waiting to hear that news," he said.

"The majority of women with breast cancer actually don't have spread to the lymph nodes, so we can take out just one lymph node, check that out on the machine and the patient goes home that day.

"It gives us the answer in time for us to do any further surgery that is necessary for the lymph nodes under the arm."

He said the procedure, called GeneSearch Breast Diagnosis, could be used by NHS trusts across the UK.

"We are asking people to come and see us in Cardiff and see how easy it is to do, then we have the hard job of convincing the NHS management that this is a good thing to bring in for patient benefit," he said.

"There is the problem you have to pay some money upfront to get the machinery in before you get the savings, but I think the business case is quite compelling."

The winners of the Medical Futures awards, which aim to recognise innovation within the health sector, were announced on Thursday night.



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