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Interview: Mr John Butler, Consultant Gynaecological Oncology Surgeon

We speak with cancer surgeon Mr John Butler about his work with ovarian cancer at The Royal Marsden.

Cancer of the ovary is usually treated by a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. The aim of surgery is to remove as much of the cancer as possible and to assess the extent of disease. How much tissue is removed during the operation will depend in part upon the results of the investigations that take place before surgery.

Mr John Butler, Consultant Gynaecological Oncology Surgeon, explained: “Around a third of ovarian cancer patients present with early stage ovarian cancer and most of these patients will be cured by surgery. However, most women present with advanced disease and their best chance for long-term survival is for a surgeon to remove all of the disease. This has presented as a challenge historically as it has been hard for surgeons to do this due to the hard-to-reach areas that ovarian cancer spreads to. Over the last decade we have been increasing our repertoire of the surgical procedures we perform, with the overall aim of removing all of the disease.”

Technological advances

“Thanks to The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity’s generous donation of the Plasma Jet, we are now able to treat a lot of the hard-to-reach ovarian cancers, leaving patients with a better survival outlook, and less serious side effects. Some tumours that have spread to the bowel, for example, would have previously required a permanent stoma following surgery.”

Complex surgeries

“Here at The Royal Marsden we have referrals from around the UK and internationally. We often operate on patients with very advanced disease who have previously been told their cancer is inoperable. We are able to do these operations because of the superbly skilled anaesthetic and intensive care teams and  facilities available here for patients following surgery. It allows them to tolerate longer and more complex surgeries.”

Advanced imagery guiding more precise surgery

“As a surgeon, I work closely with my medical oncologist colleagues. At the moment, The Royal Marsden is taking part in two major studies, DISCOVAR and MROC. Both are looking at ways that, using our advanced imaging with MRI scanners, we can improve the chances of successful surgery.”

Thanks to The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity’s generous donation of the Plasma Jet, we are now able to treat a lot of the hard-to-reach ovarian cancers, leaving patients with a better survival outlook, and less serious side effects.