Dean, 41, from South London, underwent a robotic total pelvic exenteration to treat his advanced rectal cancer. A radical procedure that removes all of the organs from the pelvic area, this is the first time surgeons believe it has been carried out in the UK with robotic surgical technology.
Mr Shahnawaz Rasheed, Consultant Surgeon at The Royal Marsden, who led the case said: “Our traditional approach would be to do, what we call an ‘open’ operation; a large incision would have been made from the chest down to the pubic bone in order to access and remove the organs and tumour. It would have taken a substantial amount of time, and is hugely invasive, leading to longer recovery and substantial scarring for the patient.
“In contrast, by using the robotic technology, we could do the procedure through a minimally invasive approach. It’s hugely important for this young man, to help him get back to leading a normal life as safely and quickly as possible.”
In this robotic case, Mr Rasheed and Mr Pardeep Kumar, a Consultant Urological Surgeon at The Royal Marsden operated in turn. They controlled the four robotic arms from a remote console, which have ‘hands’ that are surgical instruments. The surgeons made small incisions to access the inside of the abdomen and pelvis, using the instruments to move and remove the tissue and organs affected by cancer. The operation took around 8 hours. As a result of the operation, Dean will have colostomy and urostomy bags.
For Dean, a father of one, it’s been a difficult year. He was diagnosed in late 2017, and referred to The Royal Marsden for chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Unfortunately subsequent tests showed the cancer had spread into his pelvic lymph nodes.
Before his diagnosis he was a keen physique athlete and amateur fitness model, and worked as a play specialist for a children’s charity.
He said: “When I first heard that I was going to have robotic surgery I was intrigued, but also relieved knowing that I wouldn’t have huge scars across my chest and stomach. I’m really hoping that after this operation I can start getting back to living a normal life and can begin training again for my fitness competitions.
“I can’t thank The Royal Marsden enough. Their staff: the surgeons, doctors, nurses, everyone – have all been incredible.”
Robotics has a number of benefits, importantly for patients. They lose less blood, experience less pain, recover quicker and consequently leave hospital sooner.
The 3D magnified images allow surgeons to see in close detail, and with the manoeuvrability of the robotic instruments maximises surgical precision.
Mr Rasheed added: “It’s just over week since we carried out the operation and already Dean is recovering well and is very mobile. For selective cancers in certain patients we will be considering this approach moving forward.”
The Royal Marsden has the largest and most comprehensive programme of robotic surgery for cancer in the UK, with a unique group of expert surgeons across head and neck, urological, gynaecological, gastrointestinal and colorectal cancer.
The pioneering da Vinci robotic technology was funded by generous supporters of The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. The Charity is also funding the UK’s only robotic surgery fellowship programme of its kind; a 10-year programme to train surgeons from other trusts in robotic procedures so that patients everywhere can more easily access the best possible treatment.