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Sheffield nurses mark 50 years of world-leading care for rare cancer

Specialist nurses caring for women with a rare group of tumours that develop in the womb during or following pregnancy have marked 50 years of the Sheffield Gestational Trophoblastic Disease Centre.

The centre is based at Weston Park Cancer Centre, which is part of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

“Our service aims to make our patients’ journey as easy and bearable as possible”

Kam Singh

It is one of two internationally renowned specialist national treatment centres, commissioned by NHS England, to provide life-changing care to patients with gestational trophoblastic disease.

Gestational trophoblastic disease is a group of conditions that grow from the tissue that forms during pregnancy. It causes the tumours to produce elevated levels of hCG, a hormone normally made by the placenta.

Staff past and present joined patients and supporters to highlight Sheffield’s leading role in the national treatment programme, which was set up in 1973 when the disease was invariably fatal.

Fast forward into 2023, it is now over 95% curable thanks to the development of effective treatment, noted the trust.

However, it highlighted that treatments remain intensive, with women undergoing months of life-saving treatments including chemotherapy directly following birth or the loss of a pregnancy.

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The Sheffield Centre looks after patients across the North of England and has supported more than 19,400 patients since it was first set up in 1973.

All patients receive comprehensive screening, specialist nursing input and management, monitoring and follow-up from diagnosis.

The Sheffield Centre is also the only one in the UK to have developed a specialist nurse consultant post for gestational trophoblastic disease.

This specialist nursing role has been pivotal in championing the ongoing physical and emotional effects of the disease, said the trust.

Kam Singh, nurse consultant for the Sheffield Gestational Trophoblastic Centre, said: “I feel very blessed and fortunate to be working in a team where everyone is empathetic and passionate about what they do.

“It is a real privilege to make a difference and we always try to put ourselves in the patient’s position, it’s such an emotive and horrendous disease, and there are lots of issues and uncertainty about what the future holds.”

She added: “Our service aims to make our patients’ journey as easy and bearable as possible.”

Sheffield Gestational Trophoblastic Disease Centre

Kam Singh (far left) with other staff at Sheffield Gestational Trophoblastic Disease Centre

John Stewart, national director for specialised commissioning at NHS England, said: “This is another example of the NHS in its 75th year offering world-leading treatments, with the gestational trophoblastic disease service helping thousands of women with an extremely rare group of tumours.

“It is fantastic to see the continuous development of this highly specialised service funded by NHS England with almost all patients now able to survive.”

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Approximately one-third of the 200 women treated through the National Gestational Trophoblastic Centre a year are treated at Weston Park Cancer Centre.

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