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WORKING ON THE MEDICAL FRONT LINE: Hayley James and Suzanne Isherwood of the Radiotherapy Department at Ipswich Hospital.
Hospital Builds on Curie's Vital Work
24 January 2012

Marie Curie won her second Nobel Prize for her work on radium in 1911 – exactly 100 years ago – and was one of the leading pioneers in radiation as a cancer therapy. A century later, radiotherapy is now recommended for half of all cancer patients as part of their treatment and Ipswich Hospital is leading the way in radiotherapy treatment in the UK.

The hospital is one of four in England and Wales that acts as a training centre for intensity modulated radiotherapy – a type of treatment that administers a dose of radiotherapy to targeted areas minimising damage to healthy tissue.

Suzanne Isherwood, 48, has worked at ipswich Hospital for 25 years. Today her job as radiotherapy service manager involves managing the hospital’s Radiotherapy department and taking part in the department’s strategic planning. She said: “Radiographers are those that deliver the treatment, we are the faces that the patients see.”

Hayley James, 38, has worked at Ipswich Hospital for 12 years. She is the operational head of Radiotherapy Physics. She said: “My team provides scientific support for the Radiotherapy service. “We have a team of clinical scientists and technicians who check the integrity of the
treatment machines.”

Later this year the department is going to take delivery of a new machine – a Varian Truebeam Linear accelerator. Hayley said: “The machine
will be installed in the summer and commissioned in October. It is replacing another machine that is ten years old. “The new machine is far more advanced so we can deliver far more advanced treatment. “Over the last 15 years radiography technology has advanced hugely. it is completely different to how it was 15 or 20 years ago.” Suzanne added: “Ipswich is one of the more advanced radiotherapy centres in the UK and we will be able to deliver some of the most advanced treatment for patients in the UK.”

The £2million machine, one of only two in the UK, will be housed in a concrete bunker which will be refurbished over the coming months. With about 40 staff in total in the hospital’s radiotherapy department, around 100 patients a day are treated there. Hayley said the department will also be developing a precise form of lung cancer treatment using radiotherapy during the year. She said: “We will be developing  radiotherapy to treat very small lung tumours that would usually be surgically removed but where people have other health issues that mean they cannot have surgery.

“We plan to use radiotherapy very precisely to eradicate the tumour.” Suzanna added: “We want to let the people of Suffolk know that the standard of treatment here is top notch. “They cannot get better treatment anywhere else.”