Machine brings relief for cancer patients

Illawarra patients will no longer need to travel to Sydney for an endoscopic ultrasound after cancer sufferers, Wollongong Hospital staff specialists and the business community dug deep to fund a $350,000 machine.

‘‘Up until now the doctors have all been getting together each week to discuss treatment and diagnosis of patients with cancer  and then we have to send these sick people to Sydney for this test,’’ said Jenny McDonald, director of gastroenterology at Wollongong Hospital.

‘‘That’s really inconvenient for cancer patients, many of who are elderly and have to get up at 5am to get to Sydney for the procedure.

‘‘We wanted to have it set up locally and we managed to recruit a doctor who had the specialist skills who could do the test.’’

A small ultrasound device is installed on the tip of an endoscope, which is a lighted, flexible tube with a camera attached.

By inserting the endoscope and camera into the upper or the lower digestive tract, the doctor is able to obtain high-quality ultrasound images of organs.

‘‘As well as being better for patients, having a machine on site will help doctors by having all the information here in house to better manage and care for those patients,’’ Ms McDonald said.

‘‘There are only a few hospitals in Sydney that have got this equipment so we are very lucky.’’

When Illawarra staff specialists expressed the need for a machine at Wollongong Hospital, the Illawarra Cancer Carers kicked into action.

Spokesman Keith Wilson said the group was ‘‘very proud’’ to have donated $200,000 towards the purchase price. Staff specialists also contributed.

Yesterday, the region’s medical leaders helped demonstrate the machine’s capabilities.

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