Cancer Centre marks one year anniversary

Today (Friday 19 August) marks the one-year anniversary of the official opening of the Northern Centre for Cancer Care, North Cumbria.

The state-of-the-art centre was officially opened by the then Secretary of State for Health and Social Care – Sajid Javid – benefitting thousands of patients in North Cumbria.

Its development brought all non-surgical cancer services under the same roof for the first time, now the majority of adult patients can be treated in the centre, receiving their care closer to home.

With only patients with rare cancers, those requiring very specialist radiotherapy and children and young people with cancer needing to be referred to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.

Ashraf Azzabi, consultant medical oncologist at Newcastle Hospitals said: “This last year has passed so quickly but we’re delighted we’ve been able to offer these services to people in Cumbria. Our team here work extremely hard to support our patients and we continue to receive outstanding feedback from people receiving treatment in the centre.

Dr Ashraf Azzabi is a Medical Oncologist based at the Northern Centre for cancer Care with specialist interest in genitourinary and colorectal cancers
Dr Ashraf Azzabi

“We’re committed to improving cancer services for patients across north Cumbria and we have plans to continue this with an upgrade to the chemotherapy suite in Whitehaven.”

Over the last year our expert team at the centre have delivered almost 9,000 radiotherapy treatments and over 10,000 chemotherapy treatments.

The Northern Centre for Cancer Care, North Cumbria is a partnership between Newcastle Hospitals and North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust (NCIC) making it one of the biggest combined cancer treatment services in the country.

Kerry Hawke, lead cancer nurse at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The NCCC has provided a state-of-the-art facility for the delivery of non-surgical oncology and radiotherapy treatment for the patients of north Cumbria, adopting a model centred on safety, quality and integrated care.

“The focus is on ensuring the best possible outcomes for those affected by cancer in our communities. The commitment of the Newcastle team to improving cancer services for patients across north Cumbria is amazing and the positive feedback received from our patients is a reflection of their commitment.”

Shaun’s story

47-year-old Shaun McKeown from Longtown in Cumbria was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer in March 2022 and is currently receiving treatment at the centre.

Shaun explains: “Towards the beginning of 2022, I noticed a change in my bowel movements and the odd spot of blood. I had been losing weight slightly, but I ride a motorbike as a Police Officer and had recently jolted my neck while on my bike.

“I’d taken up running to help with the injury and at first, I thought the weight loss was just down to that. I had no other symptoms, but something just clicked in my mind that things weren’t right.”

After speaking to his GP Shaun was referred for a colonoscopy where he was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Shaun had surgery to remove the tumour and within a few weeks was back to walking five to ten kilometres a day.

He added: “I had 12 lymph nodes removed in the operation but thankfully they were all clear. I’ve just started chemotherapy as they found some cells in some fatty tissue around the colon where the tumour was. I’m now mid chemo and have just started my third cycle of four.”

Shaun travels to the centre for his chemotherapy once every three weeks and is full of praise for the staff caring for him: “The staff have all been spot on, when I had my first appointment there they showed me round and explained exactly what would happen, what kind of side effects I might have – which was really brilliant as it meant I felt more prepared for some of the more unusual side effects I have.

“I count myself as one of the lucky ones, I only need to go there once a week, there are other people who need to go every day so it’s great to have a centre like this so close to home – travelling for hours for treatment would make things so much more challenging.”

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