HEALTHY LIVING: Fine-tuning treatment of disease

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MUSIC is Jim Langley’s life.

The 69-year-old from Nether Edge, Sheffield, is a keen tuba player and even makes brass instruments.

Musician Jim Langley, of Nether Edge, Sheffield

Musician Jim Langley, of Nether Edge, Sheffield

But three years ago the father-of-three faced losing his ability to play music for ever.

In the midst of treatment for thyroid cancer, Jim was told an operation on his throat could rob him of his gift.

Jim vividly remembers taking to the stage for what he thought would be his last ever performance at Buxton Music Festival in 2009.

“Being on stage was very special.

“We were playing Monteverdi’s Vespers, one of my favourite pieces of music.

“I remember thinking even if I could no longer play again, how lucky I was to be on stage at that moment, doing something I love.”

Fortunately, three years on and Jim is still playing the tuba with the Sheffield Concert Band and has made a complete recovery, thanks to expert treatment at Weston Park cancer hospital.

The retired education director received the diagnosis out of the blue, after having a scan before a routine operation for a cyst on his Adam’s apple.

“I felt very lucky it was picked up so quickly, I had no symptoms and didn’t feel at all unwell,” he said.

He underwent an operation to remove his thyroid gland - which meant he then needed replacement hormones.

He also swallowed with radioactive iodine to remove any remaining traces of cancer from the body.

Jim, a grandad of two, also agreed to take part in a clinical trial.

He said: “I felt I’d been very fortunate to have been diagnosed so quickly and I wanted to do something positive to help the hospital.

“I had every faith in my consultant, Dr Jonathan Wadsley, and his team not to put my recovery at risk and I was happy to take part in the trial.”

Thyroid cancer is one of the rarer forms of cancer, affecting about 2,000 people a year in the UK.

The treatment is highly effective if caught early - but has not changed for the last 40 years.

Now doctors at Weston Park are trying out new forms of treatment in a bid to reduce side effects.

Dr Wadsley, an expert in thyroid cancer, said: “Thyroid cancer treatment has been the same for the last 30 or 40 years.

“The aim of the trial was to see if a lower dose of radioactive iodine and a new hormone treatment are beneficial for patients and reduce the side effects of extreme fatigue.”

Patients first have surgery to remove the entire thyroid gland, and then a few weeks later take either a capsule or swallow medication containing radioactive iodine.

The iodine destroys any remaining healthy thyroid gland tissue and any potential cancer cells.

Some 40 patients, including Jim, took part in the trial, and the results, published The New England Journal of Medicine this May, found for certain patients a lower dose of radioactive iodine is just as effective the current treatment.

Traditionally, patients, having radioactive iodine treatment, have needed to stay in hospital in an isolation room for three of four days until the radiation has left their bodies.

But shorter stays in hospital will be possible for some patients in future because of taking a lower dose of iodine.

Patients at Weston Park has also taken part in other trials exploring potential genetic links in thyroid cancer, as well as measuring quality of life.

Dr Wadsley added: “At Weston Park Hospital we are proud to be involved in research trials which pave the way for new and improved treatments in the NHS.

“It is very important that moving forward we have the latest facilities to offer new treatments and complex therapies to our patients.”