A £35,000 scanner which could make a life-saving difference in the fight against prostate cancer is now in use at Tiverton and District Hospital.
The mobile Trans Rectal Ultrasound Scanner has been paid for by the funds raised by the Chestnut Appeal.
Patients can be tested for the disease in Tiverton rather than having to travel to the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital for the procedure. It can even take a biopsy to speed up the whole diagnostic approach – potentially saving more lives.
The ultrasound scanner emits waves that produces a higher quality image of the prostate gland to appear on screen, providing a patient's medical team with vital information on which to base a diagnosis.
The scanner will be available at the hospital via special clinics run once a week by Malcolm Crundwell, consultant urologist and clinical director, and his team at the RD&E.
"Access to these machines will transform the diagnostic process and it is no exaggeration to say that it could mean the difference between life and death," said Mr Crundwell.
"The chances of successful treatment and complete recovery from prostate cancer are greatly increased through early diagnosis, which is exactly what the machines will enable us to do.
"The Chestnut Appeal has done a tremendous job in raising the money for this machine, money that has been extremely well spent."
Mr Crundwell said the technology had been in use for around 15 years but the machines had become smaller to the point where the current model is easily portable. Because of this it has the potential to be used in other community hospitals.
He said the procedure itself takes around five minutes, but patients generally come in for half the morning or afternoon to be prepared for surgery and to recover afterwards.
The first two patients got a chance to use the machine on Wednesday.
One was 81-year-old Derek Coaley, from Cullompton.
Mr Coaley said: "It is so much more convenient to come here than to have to go to Exeter.
"Everything today has been excellent. They have been very kind and very professional."
As well as the Chestnut Appeal's loyal fundraisers and supporters, members of local Lions clubs were also involved in raising funds, contributing £9,000 to the cost of the machine.
The scanner is one of two that will be made available in both Devon and Cornwall.
Lesley-Ann Simpson, manager of the Chestnut Appeal, said the response to raising funds for the machines had been tremendous as people recognised how vitally important they would be.
"I cannot thank our fundraisers and the Lions clubs enough for making the purchase of these machines possible," she said.
"Early diagnosis could make all the difference to the survival rates from prostate cancer so it was really important we were able to fund them."
The Chestnut Appeal was launched by Radio Devon in 2000 and raises awareness of prostate cancer, as well as helping fund the very latest treatments and technology.