Q&A with Ross Carter, Consultant HPB surgeon at Glasgow Royal Infirmary
Ross Carter is a consultant HPB surgeon at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. He specialises in surgical management of pancreatic diseases and is especially interested in improving hospital services for patients. Here he answers questions about how pancreatic cancer treatments, particularly surgery, are being carried out during the coronavirus pandemic and the measures being put into place to keep patients as safe as possible.
Is surgery for pancreatic cancer taking place during the coronavirus pandemic?
Yes. Pancreatic cancer surgery is increasingly being re-established now we are beyond the peak of coronavirus cases. In some areas, patients who were eligible for pancreatic cancer surgery have been offered treatments (chemotherapy) to prevent their cancer growing and spreading and as surgical numbers increase, we should see a greater number of patients with pancreatic cancer have their operations.
The priority for surgery going forward, is to be able to continue cancer surgery in a world with the coronavirus. That means being able to find flexibility in the system to treat patients with cancer separately from those with coronavirus and to continue cancer treatment, even if there is a second peak.
What are medical teams doing to keep patients safe?
Whatever stage you are at in the diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer, your medical team will be working as hard as possible to keep you safe. This may mean making changes to your treatment plan to reduce your visits to hospital. Medical teams will take into account your personal risk of coronavirus and make treatment decisions with you. Your team will recommend the best possible course of treatments and care and their focus is still on you.
Your medical team will advise you about any special measures you need to take coming into hospital. This may vary according to your local area and where you are being treated.
How are hospitals keeping patients safe?
Wherever you live in the UK, your local hospital will be putting measures into place behind the scenes to keep you as safe as possible. For surgery this generally means that any tests, appointments and treatments before surgery take place in as coronavirus free areas as possible. Streaming of patients admitted into hospital for planned surgery, aims to ensure that before, during, and after your operation you will be cared for on wards, by staff only looking after patients who are also free of coronavirus.
You may have your treatment in the same place as you normally would or may mean going somewhere different that is allocated for cancer care. Whatever the reason you need to come into hospital, at any stage of your care, the priority will be to make treatment as safe as it can possibly be.
What can patients expect before being admitted to hospital?
If you are being admitted to hospital for pancreatic cancer treatment, you and those in your household will be asked to isolate for up to 14 days prior to your admission. You will also be tested for Covid-19 before coming into hospital. This may involve a swab test and a CT scan to check for signs of the disease in your lungs.
What would you say to patients who are nervous about attending hospital at the moment?
We know that we can never completely eliminate the coronavirus risk, but your medical team can give you the best possible advice and everyone is working incredibly hard to make sure surgery and other treatments can go ahead as safely as possible. It is still important to attend medical appointments and have your treatment, pancreatic cancer hasn’t gone away, and medical teams are working together every day to prioritise patients.