BREAST cancer patients are benefiting from a new £45,000 machine which has been installed at Basingstoke hospital.

The new equipment helps surgeons quickly identify whether cancer has spread, and provides swift diagnosis, meaning many patients will need fewer operations.

The One Step Nucleic acid Amplification (OSNA) was bought using money raised by the North Hampshire Medical Fund and the Breast Unit Trust Fund. It works by analysing the sentinel nodes in the armpit, which the surgeon removes while the patient is undergoing breast reconstruction surgery, or while tumours are being removed.

The test takes just 40 minutes, with the result provided directly to the operating theatre while the patient is still under anaesthetic.

This means that if the cancer has spread, the lymph nodes can be removed immediately, during the same operation. If the result is negative, and the cancer has not spread, the patient can be told as soon as they wake up from the anaesthetic.

Previously, the sample was sent away and results would not be available for several days, meaning the patient would require a second operation if it came back positive, and face the anguish of waiting to discover the outcome.

Kevin Harris, a consultant breast surgeon based at Basingstoke hospital, in Aldermaston Road, said around 50 women will benefit from the technology every year.

He added: “Without this machine, chemotherapy is delayed, but it’s mainly about not needing a second operation. It also minimises the risk of discomfort and lymphoedema for many patients undergoing surgical treatment for breast cancer.

“It’s already making a huge difference to women. I’m just thrilled that we have it. From the patient’s perspective, we should have it nationwide.”

Tricia Monro, fund manager for the North Hampshire Medical fund, said the new equipment will “considerably reduce the physical and psychological burden” for women.

She said the charity had provided £35,000 towards the cost, and added: “It’s an amazing piece of equipment which will make a huge difference to patients at the hospital.

“When we were approached about the possibility of providing funding for the machine, we were really keen to do so, and it was something we were really happy to support.”