07 May 2013

Following referral Miss Susannah Penney, Head, Neck and Thyroid Surgeon, will determine a diagnosis atTamesideHospitaland from there, if the patient then needs specialist treatment at Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI) or the Christie, she will still be the person responsible for their care.

Susannah, who is one of only a handful of female head and neck cancer surgeons in the country, said: “Patients get a local service on their doorstep that is of a very high standard.  If they get referred to me with symptoms that may suggest they might have cancer, then I will see the vast majority of them within less than seven days”.

“Their symptoms will be investigated at Tameside and if they get a cancer diagnosis they will be referred to MRI or theChristieHospitalwhere I will also be the person on hand.  The thing the patients really like is, whether they need treatment at Tameside, MRI or the Christie, I will be the person they will see in any of the hospitals.  They will stay with me for the whole cancer journey, so will get the continuity of care and just one person as the point of contact. Everyone will be looked after me.”

Originally from Ramsbottom, Susannah did her medical training at Manchester University, before training to be a Registrar in the North-West Deanery, including time at theChristieHospital. She then went on to undertake a prestigious head and neck cancer fellowship for specialist training inNewcastle-Upon-Tyne.  On her return to theNorth Westshe went back to Manchester Royal Infirmary and now runs the head and neck diagnostic service atTamesideHospital.

She said: “Patients know when they are seeing somebody who is interested in them. I always wanted to be a Surgeon and then decided I wanted to be a Head and Neck Surgeon.  It is the right decision and I have absolutely no regrets.  Head and Neck cancer patients are really interestingly but unfortunately the cure rate for these patients has not really improved in the last 50 years despite surgical and chemoradiotherapy advances, so it is about helping them in as many different ways as possible.”

“Rehabilitation is a large part of what I do. It’s quite an emotionally taxing speciality because there are some patients where cure is just not possible.  Many of them go through quite extensive, disfiguring, life-changing surgery.  Head and neck patients can also get complications that can be hard to deal with.  Treatment for head and neck cancer can take away many things we hold dear and take for granted like speaking and swallowing”.

She added: “It means we have to spend a lot of time with patients and that’s why I really enjoy my job, in fact, it’s the best part about it”.