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New DySIS technology at Southend Hospital helps to prevent cervical cancer

12 November 2015

Health Care

Women across south east Essex are for the first time benefitting from medical technology which is preventing cervical cancer.

The technology is also helping to avoid invasive treatment which can hamper a woman's ability to have children.

Doctors at Southend University Hospital are the first in Essex to be using the device called DySIS - Dynamic Spectral Imaging System -  to help detect changes in the cervix and to help guide the best course of treatment for women to prevent them developing full blown cancer.

The equipment is also helping to ensure women avoid invasive treatment, which can in some cases leave them with problems during pregnancy such as increased risk of miscarriage and premature birth

Doctors have said the device is expected to help around 800 women a year at the hospital and has changed the philosophy of how women are treated. 

Mr Khalil Razvi, consultant gynaecological oncologist and lead for the colposcopy service at Southend Hospital said the technology was partly funded by local cancer charity COPES - Cervical, Ovarian, Perineal, Endometrial Support - a local registered charity for all gynaecological cancers in the Essex Cancer Network, to mark its tenth birthday.

"The device helps us to detect certain pre-cancerous changes more accurately and shows which ones we need to treat and which we can leave. This equipment picks up changes at an earlier stage so we can give treatment which prevents cancer developing. It is making it easier to manage the condition for our patients," he said.

Around 1200 women attend the hospital each year to have a colposcopy procedure, and of these women, Mr Razvi estimates that 50% have pre-cancerous changes. He believes a proportion of those would go onto develop full blown cancer if they were left untreated.

As well as potentially saving lives the device has an important role to play in managing and guiding women's treatment known as LETTZ which burns away the cells.  

"It's well known the treatment can impact on pregnancy and can cause premature birth and miscarriage in some cases. With this technology we can manage this better for a group of our patients who are young women and avoid invasive treatment, said Mr Razvi.

"This is helping young women who want to fulfil their wish to have a family by preventing the need for sometimes unnecessary invasive treatment."

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in females under 35 in the UK and in the last decade there has been an increase in younger women, according to Cancer Research UK. Almost 1,000 women died from the disease in 2012 in the UK which is more than two every day.  

Doctors are urging women to attend their cervical screening test - known as a smear - to help prevent cervical cancer. If a woman has a smear which requires further investigation, they are referred to hospital for a procedure called a colposcopy - a detailed examination of the cervix (neck of the womb).

The DySIS uses digital imaging to show doctors in real time on a screen where pre-cancerous cells are in a woman's cervix and helps to map and measure what level the changes are so doctors can decide on the best level of treatment.

DySIS can detect changes on the cervix with greater sensitivity than traditional colposcopy which means more women with abnormal changes can be detected.

"We can reassure women with low level changes earlier on without the need to invite them back for further investigation. Sometimes we bring people back for further review and that can add to the anxiety for women. But with the increased accuracy of this technology we can confidently tell them they don't need invasive treatment. This is very reassuring for patients."

Southend Hospital is one of several hospitals across the country using DySIS.

Emma Azeem, who is a Macmillan Gynaecology Oncology clinical nurse specialist who works at Southend Hospital, speaking for COPES said: "Our main aim is to support women and their families affected by this sensitive group of cancers which can affect women of all ages. 

"The COPES fundraising committee works tirelessly to raise funds to support Southend Hospital and the community to ensure high quality equipment and the best care, through research, is provided to all women locally."