MEDICS at a North-East university have carried out the first radio-guided lung surgery in the country.

The procedure was carried out by a team at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, on lung cancer patient Joan Wanless, 72.

When the Middlesbrough grandmother-of-eight was diagnosed with lung cancer on one side of her lungs and a tiny nodule was found on the other she feared the worst.

Experts explained that it was an untypical case and that if the 6mm nodule was cancerous as well it would be too dangerous to try to operate.

Mrs Wanless was dealt a further blow when she discovered the nodule was so small that it would be extremely hard to find during surgery and too high risk to do a biopsy using normal surgical methods.

Her cardiothoracic consultant Joel Dunning had heard of an advanced technique that could help them locate the nodule using radioactive tracer.

In order to carry out the technique Mr Dunning had to call on the expertise of colleagues, including the hospital's head of nuclear medicine Mark Richardson, radiologist Dr Arivalagan Bapusamy and theatre sister Caroline Baldwin.

"If the nodule was cancer then going through a major operation on the other side of the lungs would have been too high risk so we absolutely had to know what the nodule was," said Mr Dunning.

"In a presentation I had seen in America someone had talked about injecting a radioactive solution near to the nodule and then using a Geiger counter to find its exact location. So I made enquiries as to whether we could do something similar."

Radiologist Dr Bapusamy injected the radioactive solution guided by images from a CT scanner and Mr Richardson, working with Mr Dunning, to locate and remove the nodule.

Mr Richardson said: "It was a great success. The gamma ray emissions enabled us to find the nodule very quickly."

Pathology tests revealed the nodule was benign and a week later Mrs Wanless was able to have her tumour removed using keyhole surgery.

"When they told me I had lung cancer I thought that was it," said Mrs Wanless.

"But when Mr Dunning told me I could have the operation that was the best present ever."