The Tayside gynaecological cancer surgical team has been awarded the prestigious Cullen Award 2019 by the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.
Awarded in partnership with NHS Tayside, The Cullen Award is a regional prize which recognises excellence and innovation in a doctor or multidisciplinary team led by a doctor. It is awarded for excellence and/or exceptional levels of local teaching or service delivery.
The team, which consists of surgical, anaesthetic and theatre staff, was recognised for their achievements in pioneering the use of keyhole surgery for endometrial cancer.
Endometrial (womb) cancer affects one in three women in their lifetime and, over a 10 year period, there has been a 30% increase in the number of cases diagnosed across the UK. Being overweight is the biggest risk factor for the development of womb cancer and the increased rates have mirrored increasing rates of obesity.
Although this type of cancer is usually cured by hysterectomy, this could not historically always be offered to very overweight women due to the considerable risks associated with surgery, particularly in women who also have other health problems associated with obesity such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
By investing in training, equipment and team working, the gynaecological cancer team is now able to offer keyhole surgery to women with a BMI up to 60.
As a result, over 95% of hysterectomies for womb cancer are now done as keyhole procedures in NHS Tayside with over 90% of women discharged home fully independent the next day. The risk of surgical complications has reduced from one in four to one in 10, with the risk of significant complications now being only one in 25. For the few women requiring additional treatment, such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy, this can then be started without delay.
The team is also working with the Scottish Cancer Prevention Network to increase awareness of the link between obesity and womb cancer risk. Its clinical nurse specialists are working closely with the clinical psychologists at Maggie’s Centre to offer support to overweight women with womb cancer to help them lose weight before and after surgery.
The Cullen Award
William Cullen began his career as a medical lecturer and pioneer teacher of chemistry at Glasgow University. He rose to international fame as the leading figure in Edinburgh University medical school and served as president of the RCPE.
He was appointed the King’s Physician in Scotland and became the most influential medical lecturer of his generation. Alongside his close associates David Hume and Adam Smith, Cullen played an important role in the Scottish Enlightenment.
Cullen’s private consultations survive as a remarkable archive of several thousand letters. These include requests for advice from patients or close family members and referrals from attendant physicians and surgeons.
Further details of the William Cullen Project can be found at www.cullenproject.ac.uk