Illawarra beach banquet for laser fundraiser

Ear, nose and throat surgeon Dr Stephen Pearson welcomes an Illawarra Cancer Carers campaign to raise funds for a cutting-edge laser for Wollongong Hospital. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

Ear, nose and throat surgeon Dr Stephen Pearson welcomes an Illawarra Cancer Carers campaign to raise funds for a cutting-edge laser for Wollongong Hospital. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

A Laser that will more precisely remove cancerous tumours in the mouth and throat, cutting surgical and recovery times, may soon be available for patients at Wollongong Hospital.

The Illawarra Cancer Carers major annual fund-raiser, Banquet at the Beach, aims to raise more than $160,000 to buy a carbon dioxide or CO2 laser for use in head and neck cancer surgery.

Wollongong ear, nose and throat surgeon Dr Stephen Pearson said he was grateful the group had chosen to fund the advanced and versatile surgical tool.

"It is a tool that provides precise surgical cutting in areas that are difficult to access such as the larynx and the airway, and different parts of the oral cavity such as the mouth and tongue," he said.

"It can cut very precisely with fairly little bleeding and is very effective for the removal of tumours, whether benign or malignant, in these areas.

"It can also be used for airway procedures as it opens airways very safely and precisely to improve breathing and quality of life."

Dr Pearson said a CO2 laser had once been in place at Figtree Private Hospital but had been decommissioned due to its age, leaving the region without this specialist piece of equipment for some years.

"Since the head and neck cancer unit at Wollongong Hospital was established in 2006, we have seen a large growth in head and neck cancer treatment in our region," he said.

"But there's been one piece of equipment missing - one vital piece - and that is this laser.

"If we are able to get it, it will be another way we can help keep our services local and stop the need for patients to have to travel to Sydney for treatment."

Dr Pearson said the laser would mainly be used for cancer patients, but had other applications - such as ear surgery - and may attract other specialists to work in the region.

Meanwhile, it would bring a range of benefits for patients.

"The laser treatment means patients can be transitioned through surgery and out into recovery more rapidly," he said. "Because it's more precise with removal, procedures may also be better tolerated and patients will recover faster.

"For a subset of patients it may even be a way of avoiding radiation."

Banquet at the Beach committee chairman Keith Wilson said the annual event had enabled more than $2.7 million to be donated to the region's hospitals, healthcare services and support groups.

This year's fund-raising campaign will be launched on Wednesday, ahead of the event itself on June 22 at City Beach Function Centre.

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