Somerset woman undergoes revolutionary treatment for tonsil cancer after mistaking symptoms for a dental abscess

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A woman from Somerset has become one of the first adult patients in the UK to benefit from revolutionary proton-beam therapy after being diagnosed with tonsil cancer.

Liz Patch was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer after visiting her dentist in September last year. Liz initially thought her symptoms were caused by an abscess underneath her tooth but she was shocked to discover that there was a tumour in the tonsils.

Liz was offered the opportunity to be one of the first adults in the UK to undergo proton-beam therapy, a treatment technique, which targets tumours more precisely than other therapies to preserve healthy tissue surrounding the mass. Liz’s treatment was took place at The Christie Hospital, Manchester, where clinical trials for adults over 25 were taking place.

Six months after her diagnosis, Liz is now looking forward to going back to work. She said that she had no idea that a dental appointment would potentially save her life. Despite the initial shock of being diagnosed with cancer during the pandemic when she couldn’t see family and friends, Liz was determined to undergo the trial. She was desperate to live and she wanted to give herself the best possible chance of survival. The therapy had previously only been available to trial participants under the age of 25, but the Torpedo Trial at The Christie had no upper age restriction.

Proton-beam therapy works by employing charged particles to target cancerous cells, rather than X-rays. This improves accuracy while also protecting healthy tissue that surrounds tumours to reduce the risk of side-effects. James Price, an oncologist at The Christie, said that he was optimistic that proton-beam therapy would provide a better treatment option, which offers superior quality of life for cancer patients moving forward.

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