Opera fan becomes oldest person to have lung cancer operation

Friday 15 January 2016

160115- Karen HP and George

An opera fan has become the oldest person ever to successfully have part of his lung removed to treat lung cancer.

George Matthews, 98, from Tunbridge Wells, was diagnosed with lung cancer in April 2014. He was referred to Guy’s and St Thomas’ thoracic centre as it specialises in treating lung cancer patients who would not normally be operated on because of age associated risks.

He was successfully operated on in July 2014 and returned home nine days later. He was told that full recovery would take eight months or more but was determined to go to Glyndebourne in the autumn with his family.                 

George says: “When I was first diagnosed, I was initially offered radiotherapy, which didn’t sound pleasant, and wouldn’t have removed my cancer altogether. So when I met Ms Harrison-Phipps, and she offered me surgery, I was amazed. I thought ‘at my age?’ but she was fully confident that it would be safe and successful.

“The staff were wonderful – both with the patients and with each other.

“I’m now in my 99th year, but I’m still living on my own and my children visit me several times a week. I feel my age, but I’m so much better than I was before the surgery. I’m very pleased that I was given the option.”

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the UK, killing around 35,000 people a year. Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust hosts the country’s biggest thoracic centre, seeing over 1,500 people annually.

George’s operation was carried out by Ms Karen Harrison-Phipps, consultant thoracic surgeon at Guy’s and St Thomas’. She says: “We see patients in their 80s and 90s who recover very well from lung operations. They often do much better than people who are younger but less fit.

“We’ve now treated more than 50 people who would normally be ‘high risk’ because of their age, and they’ve all returned home after successful lung operations.

“Older people die of lung cancer every day because they’re deemed too high risk for surgery but I see no reason that fit people, no matter their age, should be denied this life-saving treatment.”

Last updated: January 2016

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