It’s an unfortunate reality that genetics put some people at higher risk of contracting certain diseases. Nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC) is one example. NPC is rare cancer of the head and neck that grows in a hard-to-reach area behind the nose. The single biggest risk factor for NPC is being Chinese.
Right now, doctors at St. Paul’s are advancing our understanding NPC and other cancers that are more prevalent in Asians.
NPC is particularly challenging to diagnose and treat. It doesn’t usually show symptoms until it has already spread. And because of the tumour’s location, treatment can drastically affect your voice, vision, ability to swallow, and even your senses of taste and smell.
Guo Yu was first treated for NPC seven years ago. After a relapse last year, he was referred to Dr. Andrew Thamboo at St. Paul’s.
Dr. Thamboo is a sinus and skull base surgeon and research director of St. Paul’s Sinus Centre. He’s also the only physician in western Canada regularly performing an innovative day surgery to remove NPC.
Using an endoscope, Dr. Thamboo can access and remove the tumour through the nostrils. This is much less invasive than other surgeries which require an incision in the neck, face, or soft palate (the roof of your mouth).
Guo was thrilled at how quickly he recovered. “I only had a little numbness after the surgery,” he says. “And within a month, I was exercising, jogging, and hiking!”
Dr. Thamboo’s technique goes beyond helping to save his patients’ lives: it’s about improving the quality of their lives. “I want them to be able to speak well, to smell the flowers, to enjoy their food – all the simple but important things.”
Guo is beyond grateful. “The care I received has not only given me a new lease on life, it’s also given me a tremendous appetite!”
New hospital = better outcomes + more discoveries
Dr. Thamboo’s approach to NPC is just one of the countless life-saving therapies developed and perfected here over the last 126 years. Indeed, one of the most impressive legacies of the old St. Paul’s is that we have achieved so much in a hospital built for – and in – another era of medicine.
As we prepare to open the new St. Paul’s at the Jim Pattison Medical Centre in just five years, the sky’s the limit on what we can accomplish.
“The new St. Paul’s is all about innovation,” says Dr. Thamboo. “Being in a brand new space is going to push us even further out onto the forefront of discovery, technology, and compassion.”
A big part of improving patient outcomes is finding better, faster ways to diagnose and treat them. For example, Dr. Thamboo and his team are working with the BC Cancer Agency to identify NPC blood markers that could provide an early warning.
The idea of finding a blood marker to screen for NPC in its earliest stages is exciting and it speaks to how the new St. Paul’s will fast-track discoveries from the researchers to the patients.
“What’s really great about the new St. Paul’s is that we’ll have a clinical tower right beside a research tower,” Dr. Thamboo explains. With scientists, researcher partners, and patients all in the same place, we’ll be able to push the envelope across the board to discover new treatments and therapies, to teach the next generation of health care providers, and to improve care for people across BC.
For Dr. Thamboo, the potential goes well beyond our own borders. “We’re already Canadian leaders in skull-based surgery and science – and so many other specialities, too. The new St. Paul’s will truly put us on the international stage.”
Your support makes all the difference
This year, Scotiabank Feast of Fortune is proud to support patients like Guo Yu and innovators like Dr. Thamboo as we transform the future of health care at the new St. Paul’s.
“The new St. Paul’s will provide the most advanced care and treatment for all its patients. Thank you so much for donating!” – Guo Yu
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Without your help, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Imagine where we could be tomorrow? I hope you will donate to help us build the new St. Paul’s.”
Dr. Andrew Thamboo
Join us for this virtual event on Thursday, February 25 at 7:00 PM to transform healthcare for all British Columbians. Get the latest details, here. Buy your tickets here. And please consider making tax-deductible donation here.
Your financial support of this year’s Scotiabank Feast of Fortune represents so much more than a celebration of the Lunar New Year. It represents the future of hope, healing, and compassion at the new St. Paul’s.