A £4.6M state-of-the-art centre for treating bowel and lung cancer has opened at St George’s Hospital, London, it was announced today.

The new unit, which was built with funding from Wandsworth PCT, the Department of Health and the health charity Beating Bowel Cancer, will carry out more than 6,000 endoscopies every year , rising to 11,000 procedures in five years time.

Doctors hope the centre which is described by the man behind the project as probably the most advanced of its kind in the country – will lead to the earlier detection of cancers affecting the stomach, bowel and lung by cutting waiting times for an endoscopy down to two weeks.

The unit will treat patients from across South West London and the South East of England.

As one of three national training centres for endoscopy, the hospital is also set to offer on-site training for up to 300 doctors and nurses every year and reach thousands more around the world by broadcasting footage of procedures live from each of the unit’s four endoscopy rooms.

The centre was designed by consultant surgeon Roger Leicester and Libby Thomson, Manager & Lead Educator for nurses and technicians, and it was their plan to put the needs of patients at the heart of the new unit’s design.

“The unit is probably the most advanced of its kind in the country, says Mr Leicester, Director of Endoscopy Education for St George’s.

“Patients needing an endoscopy will undergo their procedure in a state-of-the-art unit which will be practising the highest standards of endoscopy and patient care.

“What we’ve done is put the needs of patients at the heart of the unit’s design. The unit is light, bright, airy and spacious. And we’ve done everything we can do to make the patient’s time here as comfortable as possible.”

After lung cancer, cancer of the bowel is the second biggest cancer killer in the UK. But the disease, which takes the lives of as many as 20,000 people a year, can be treated if caught early.

Three-quarters of all endoscopies are used to investigate symptoms which might be signs of bowel, stomach or lung cancer.

A device called an endoscope is passed down the mouth or nose of a patient into their bowel, stomach or lung to look for early warning signs of cancer and symptoms of other medical conditions such as stomach ulcers, colitis or tuberculosis.

The endoscope comprises a long tube with a tiny electronic camera attached at one end. The camera beams images from inside the body back to a television screen where the operator can see the images.

Tiny surgical instruments can then be passed down the tube to allow the operator to remove tissue samples or perform delicate operations such as the removal of polyps from the bowel or stones from the bile duct.

Endoscopy is therefore far less invasive for patients than normal surgery.

“Endoscopy holds the key to the early diagnosis of cancer,” Mr Leicester continues, “and is the most accurate way of diagnosing cases of stomach, bowel and lung cancer.”

Highlights of the new endoscopy centre include:

  • Four endoscopy rooms, one of which is dedicated for training
  • a spacious and comfortable waiting area for patients and visitors
  • a state of the art cleaning and decontamination unit which will be leading new initiatives in disinfection and safety
  • a 16-bed recovery area
  • a 40-seat seminar room for teaching
  • Five admission bays
  • Three clinical investigation rooms for non-endoscopic examinations.
  • And a special isolation recovery room for patients with suspected tuberculosis undergoing an endoscopic examination of the lungs.