When Barbara started to suffer shortness of breath she didn’t delay seeking medical help.
The 75-year-old, from Northallerton, was rushed to The James Cook University Hospital in July when she thought she had contracted COVID-19.
But within three days she was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer.
Barbara Cox, who used to be a healthcare assistant, is now the first patient within South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to be treated using a newly approved method of taking an immunotherapy drug called Atezolizumab alongside her chemotherapy.
Immunotherapy is designed to stimulate the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells.
“I feel really pleased that I’m trying the new treatment and I hope it helps other people in the future,” said Barbara.
“I cannot fault the team at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. I have not had to wait for anything and they have all been kind and very supportive.
“If there is anyone out there that is feeling unwell please don’t delay seeking medical advice because you are worried about going into hospital.
“I felt at ease the whole time I was in hospital and when I go in for my appointments and treatment I always feel safe.”
Dr Talal Mansy, consultant medical oncologist, said that despite the challenges through the coronavirus pandemic as soon as the NHS gave approval for the use of immunotherapy (Atezolizumab) with chemotherapy for small cell lung cancer, the trust’s pharmacy team, schedulers, outpatient and chemotherapy nurses all pulled together quickly to allow Barbara to be the first patient in the South Tees region to be able to be treated with this outside of trials.
Dr Mansy added: “Chemotherapy has always been used but recent trials have shown that combining chemotherapy with immunotherapy improves survival for patients further.
“It gives me the most pleasure knowing we are able to use new drugs as a soon as possible and that for Mrs Cox and all other small cell lung cancer patients, we can offer them the best possible treatments for their cancer.”
South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is urging patients not to delay in seeking urgent medical advice if they notice any cancer symptoms because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is really important that you still contact your GP and discuss your concerns if you believe you might have symptoms of cancer,” Dr Mansy said. “The chances are it is nothing serious, but finding it early makes it more treatable.”
From March to August 2020 the trust have diagnosed 1,143 cancers and have delivered 915 ‘first’ cancer treatments during that same period.