Surrey’s thoracic surgery team is on the cutting edge of its field – so to speak.
Dr. James Bond, the chief of thoracic surgery for Fraser Health, says equipment recently acquired by Surrey Memorial Hospital is enabling its four thoracic surgeons to perform “incision-less” procedures that result in better outcomes for their patients.
The hospital is the first in Western Canada to provide innovative new procedures that treat esophageal disease and identify lung cancer. Surrey’s thoracic surgeons do roughly 1,100 surgeries per year.
“They might do other procedures, but that’s surgeries, taking people into the operating room,” noted Jane Adams, president and CEO of the Surrey Hospital and Outpatient Centre Foundation.
Anne McLaughlin, spokeswoman for the foundation, says more than $2 million in donations to the foundation has helped make the Surrey-based Thoracic Surgery Program “the most technologically advanced in Canada.
“Thoracic surgery has progressed tremendously in the past 10 to 15 years and in fact Surrey is a leader in minimally invasive thoracic surgery,” she said.
In October, the 160-member Vancouver Zion Mission Choir hosted a concert and raised $165,000 in cash to help buy an $117,000 RFA, or Radiofrequency Ablation system. Of five major pieces of equipment for SMH, McLaughlin said, it’s “the one that’s yet to come.”
“Surrey is really on the map when it comes to thoracic surgery,” she said. “This is an amazing program. There is equipment in Surrey that is nowhere else in Western Canada, and that translates into giving patients more options for different minimally invasive procedures. It’s very exciting stuff and I think we should be very proud of what we have here in Surrey, serving Fraser Health.”
Yolanda Bouwman, director, major gifts for the Surrey Hospital and Outpatient Centre Foundation, told the Now-Leader earlier this year that doctors use RAF equipment to go down the patient’s throat and burn cancer cells in the esophagus where it meets the stomach. It’s used to treat Barrett’s Esophagus, caused by stomach acid flowing back into the esophagus and damaging its lining. Some people with Barrett’s develop esophageal adenoncarcinoma, a particularly deadly cancer.
Bond said he’s “very grateful” to all who supported the donation campaign. “Our donors are not only helping patients benefit from the new procedures right away, but also investing in the future of thoracic surgery. Our team will be able to use this technology to develop new techniques that can be shared with other hospitals world-wide, as well as to provide the best possible experience for training fellows and residents.”
Surrey Memorial is the first hospital outside Ontario to get a SuperDimension Navigation System that helps surgeons locate cancer deep inside the lungs by using GPS-like targeting technology to reach lesions that are otherwise difficult to find with bronchoscopes.
“A decade ago when you had lung cancer surgery you had a huge incision. Now they can do lung cancer surgery without incisions,” Bouman said, noting patients recover faster, with less infections, through this new technology.
A narrow flexible tube – catheter – is guided through the patient’s airways and once it’s deep inside, the doctor can take a small biopsy sample for quick diagnosis – all in one procedure. What that means, of course, is that treatment can begin sooner.
“I think there’s two places in Ontario that have it,” McLaughlin said. “But there’s certainly none in Western Canada (other than in Surrey).
“It’s good for us, and I think it’s a tribute to the talents of the team we have here.”
Another piece of cutting-edge medical equipment acquired by SMH is called a POEM, or Peroral Endoscopic Myotomy. This features a “minimally invasive endoscopic procedure” used to help patients with swallowing disorders, particularly a condition called achalasia, where the afflicted person has difficulty getting food and liquid to pass into the stomach. POEM helps surgeons to work, from the inside, to loosen the esophagus’s muscles so its contents can pass into the stomach, eliminating the need for surgery.
And then there’s the PINPOINT Endoscopic Flourescence Imaging System, which allows surgeons to see, in real time, blood flow in veins, tissues and organs and can be used in a number of surgical procedures, including esophagus removal. With this technology a fluorescent liquid is injected which PINPOINT uses to illuminate blood flow in vital organs.
The SPY Imaging System enables surgeons to see micro-vascular blood flow in tissues while they perform surgery, helping them to make critical decisions while operating. SPY also helps reduce complications as the patient recovers.
“I was just chatting to the woman who, her company produces the SPY,” Adams said, “and she was saying she was in the operating room and they were finishing with a thoracic case and they had a call from another room and another surgeon was finishing a case and they needed it. So they finished with the lung case and they moved it. The SPY technology that was purchased for the lung program, the thoracic program, it’s also now being used in ear, nose and throat, plastics specifically with breast cancer and our general surgeons, so it’s sort of the gift that keeps on giving in that it was bought principally for the lung and thoracic program but in the spirit of cooperation, when other surgeons in those other are of specialties need it for the benefit of their patients, it’s used there too. So we’re deploying it for the greatest effectiveness to treat the maximum number of patients, including lung patients.”
It’s especially good that Surrey’s thoracic surgeons are on top of their game and have this state-of-the-art equipment to work with, considering a worrisome Canadian Cancer Society report published earlier this year that puts Canadians’ likelihood of being diagnosed with cancer, at some point in their life, at nearly 50 per cent.
Moreover, one in four of us will die of cancer.
Nearly one in two Canadians is expected to be told they have cancer in their lifetime, according to the Canadian Cancer Statistics 2017 report, conducted in partnership with the Canadian Cancer Society, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada.
For males, according to the report, the lifetime risk is 49 per cent and for females, it’s 45 per cent.
“This sobering statistic highlights the fact that cancer is a disease that will touch almost all of us in some way,” said Dr. Leah Smith, an author of the report and CCS epidemiologist.
“Almost half of us will be diagnosed with at least one form of cancer at some point during our lifetime,” she said. Fortunately, she added, “about half of all cancers can be prevented and research continues to improve the outlook for people with cancer.”
Lung cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer at all, making for 14 per cent of all diagnoses. It’s also the leading cause of cancer death.