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Unprecedented insight into lifesaving surgery

It is an extraordinary insight into world of complex surgery for cancer patients in Southampton.

In what is thought to be the first time that 360 degree filming technology has been used this way in theatre, viewers get an unprecedented view of a cancer patient undergoing life-saving surgery carried out by surgeon Professor Tim Underwood at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.

The seven-hour procedure on Janet Jenkins, 66, involved removing part of her oesophagus and the cancerous tumour within it, before reconstructing her stomach to form a ‘new’ oesophagus and reattaching it into the upper part of her chest.

Although it is an operation Tim has performed many times, this is the first time it has been filmed using 360 degree cameras that allows viewers to get a complete sense of being in theatre with a ‘surround’ view of the operation as it happens.

The procedure has been condensed into a four-minute video in order to give the public an insight into the surgery patients with oesophageal cancer like Janet undergo as part of their treatment.

But as Tim explains, the surgery is only part of the journey when it comes to much-needed research into the disease.

He said: “The real magic happens after surgery - which is in many ways the easy bit – when we get the specimens back to the lab. By understanding more about the cancers we are removing we can develop more targeted and effective treatments that will give patients personalised care.”

“In Southampton we have a complete research embedded approach to all our work. At the end of surgery we routinely take samples for further exploration so that we can learn from everything we do. Patients who come here have access research opportunities that can improve their own treatment and those for patients in the future,” he added.

Read more about how Southampton is one of the leading research centres here

Tim is two years in to a £1.4m project funded by Cancer Research UK using drop sequencing, a high-tech process used to examine the cancer cells in microscopic detail.

The film explains how the microscopic examination of the tissue that has been removed during the life-saving operation will help to build up a picture of the genetic make-up of different types of cancer.

That sequencing will also be done within the grounds of UHS, as just metres away from the theatre in which the surgery was performed is the Cancer Research UK Centre where work into better and kinder treatments for cancer is breaking new ground.

Despite her ‘starring role’ in the film Janet, from Alton, says she felt ‘strangely removed’ from what she was seeing on screen, but that she hoped by agreeing to be filmed, it would help shape future treatments.Janet Tim0036A

Janet, who is now cancer free, said: “I think if this film helps give people an insight into what happens to a patient undergoing treatment and shows how the money that funds these really important research projects is spent, I am happy to have helped play my part.

“I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to be here in Southampton having this treatment.”