WONDER TREATMENT GAVE ME HOPE
of genetic testing with their GP.
Availability of genetic testing is increasing and becoming more standardised across the country. People needing further advice might like to contact a support organisation (for example, Chai Cancer Centre) for help in individual circumstances.
As well as my national role I continue to work in the NHS itself as the medical director of the Christie Cancer Centre in Manchester. I have also recently worked in a large group of teaching hospitals — ImperialCollegeHealthcareinWestLondon. I know at first hand the challenges and opportunities for cancer care in primary care, specialised centres and also acutehospitals,butif wearetomakethe step-change in cancer outcomes called for in the national strategy, all parts of the health system must work together within the national framework. This is an abridged version of a Jewish Care Health Insights talk, given in partnership with Chai Cancer Care, on January 19. Professor Chris Harrison is medical director (strategy) of the Christie NHS Foundation Trust; and national clinical director for cancer, NHS England
A lung cancer diagnosis was the last thing Robert Geismar was expecting.
“I cycled ten miles a day, had a healthy diet, hardly drank and never smoked a cigarette in my life. It was a total shock,” said the 67-year-old from West Hampstead.
But after coughing up blood, a chest x-ray confirmed the news.
“I had major surgery to remove part of my lung but unfortunately it had spread,” said Mr Geismar, a semi-retired property manager.
Two courses of chemotherapy proved unsuccessful and a year ago tests showed the disease had reached his brain.
Hope was hard to come by — until his oncologist mentioned Nivolumab, a groundbreaking treatment which stimulates the body’s immune system.
Almost a year later, Mr Geismar is now driving again and even attends weekly French and Spanish classes.
“The good news is the cancer has almost been removed.” And the bad? “It’s approved by NICE but it’s so expensive that the NHS won’t give it the go ahead,” Mr Geismar explained. “I’ve been relying on my private medical insurance, though they will only cover it for a year.”
Concerns over funding have heightened Mr Geismar’s anxiety, but the overall outlook is good: “I can lead about 75 per cent of the life I had before, which isn’t bad. There are side effects but fortunately, so far, no pain. I’m really, really tired and it also affects muscular strength.
“The prognosis for lung cancer is really diabolical and most people die within a year. I’m going on for three years already and am feeling quite good.
“Cancer is totally unpredictable. There’s no guarantee that the drug will continue working indefinitely. All I know is that the results right now are really good.”
Mr Geismar cannot speak highly enough of Chai Cancer Care, which he has relied on for counselling and advice, mindfulness, personal training and more. His family – especially wife Hilary – have also been incredibly supportive. “My wife has been a fantastic carer. She’s a very good, strong person,” he said.