PIONEERING breast cancer treatment will be available to up to 150 women with any type of tumour and of any age across Swindon on the NHS, it has been announced.

Earlier this year, the Great Western Hospital launched an appeal to fund new intra-operative radiotherapy on a trial basis.

The 25-minute treatment works by zapping the areas affected by breast cancer while the patient is still in the operating room, so she need not to travel to Oxford or Bath for traditional radiotherapy.

It is now due to be offered on the NHS in Swindon as standard practice and available not only to younger women but to patients over 60, after watchdog NICE approved the move.

Nathan Coombs, consultant breast surgeon at the GWH, said: “It was going to be part of an international trial originally, the Target B Trial. What it means now is that it will become standard in Swindon and open to a wider population of ladies on the NHS.

“Initially the NHS said it was only to be used for some young ladies as part of a special trial where it would shorten the amount of radiotherapy they receive by a quarter.

“For older ladies it will get rid of trips to Oxford or Bath for radiotherapy completely. Travelling was really a hassle and an imposition.

“Now we are hoping to be able to offer it to about 150 out of the 400 that we treat. We will have to choose patients carefully; but we would have been looking at 40 or 50 as part of the trial.

“We are hoping that Swindon will be a beacon of excellence for this cutting-edge treatment.”

Swindon will be one of just five centres in the UK to offer the groundbreaking therapy, which is expected to quicken recovery times and lessen the pain and sensitivity experienced following normal radiotherapy. It is also expected to reduce the risk of infection.

Mr Coombs added: “It’s huge for us. It’s the foresight of the breast team, the willingness of management to invest in the technology and public support that have made it possible.”

While the treatment will be available on the NHS, GWH will still need to raise £75,000 a year for at least the next five years towards staff training and the cost of running the machine used to deliver radiotherapy during surgery.

Thanks to generous donors the hospital’s charity Brighter Futures has collected £40,000 so far. It is hoped the whole sum will be raised by the time the first patient undergoes the therapy this autumn.