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24 January 2011, 17:23 | Updated: 10 February 2011, 11:41
More women in Suffolk and Norfolk who have breast cancer and need to get reconstructive surgery should be able to have access to the best qualified surgeons to do it in future.
The University of East Anglia has started up a new e-learning masters degree in breast reconstruction surgery which is the first of its type in the UK.
Oncoplastic breast surgery combines the surgical removal of breast cancer with reconstruction of the breast, and helps with the patient's recovery and mental wellbeing.
The course is based on a mix of e-learning and local mentoring. It has been developed by Prof Sam Leinster, professor of Medical Education at UEA and one of the team which started oncoplastic breast surgery in the 1970s, along with Professor Jerome Periera, a consultant breast surgeon at James Paget University Hospitals (JPH) and an honorary professor at the UEA.
The first two-year course starts later this month and will be attended by fifteen surgeons from across the country.
Prof Leinster said: "This is a very exciting and innovative course. It's delivery through a mix of e-learning and local mentoring means that we retain capability and capacity in front-line services whilst training, assessing and qualifying the new generation of surgeons in this field to the very highest standard. It means that surgeons will be able to train without compromising working-time directives. The course will use the expertise of surgeons at the JPH and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals along with a network of specialists across the country.
Prof Periera said the initiative meant that UEA was leading the world in innovation. "At the moment the training of surgeons can be an adhoc experience. Using this method, surgeons will have to cover the full range of operations. It means that in the final three years leading up to them becoming consultants, they will be receiving the highest quality of training in this field anywhere in the world."
Elaine Sassoon is a consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon at the Norfolk and Norwich and is doing the course. She told Heart it'll help make sure women get the same level of care anywhere they go: "One in eight to nine women will get breast cancer and now 20% of patients will undergo reconstruction, so we need a certain knowledge level of cancer treatment which is standardised so patients don't feel that they have to travel to one part of the country to the other and the same for reconstruction. We're hoping to raise the level so that patients are safer generally."