Woman says robotic surgery saved her life after being diagnosed with cancer

A woman says she believes robotic surgery saved her life after she was diagnosed with cancer.

Deborah Speirs, from Tollcross, Glasgow, opted for an “innovative” procedure instead of traditional surgery after learning in March 2021 she had stage 3 bowel cancer.

After undergoing surgery – and also chemotherapy – she has now been completely cleared.

She said: “At this very traumatic and difficult time for me and my family, I really think robotic surgery saved my life.”

Deborah Speirs (second right) who opted for robotic surgery, with her daughter Antonia (left), father Thomas (second left) and partner Paul (NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde/PA)

Ms Speirs opted for robotic surgery after the procedure was explained to her by Professor Campbell Roxburgh, a surgeon at Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

She previously said she had “never heard of this type of surgery”, adding: “Surgery itself is a scary word and I never thought of surgeon-led robots.”

More than 60 doctors across NHS Scotland are trained to use robotic surgery, with 15 machines in operation.

In NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, procedures are available at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary and the city’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, where bowel, urology and gynecology, as well as head and neck surgery can be performed in this way.

The da Vinci robotic systems used have four arms that can hold a camera and surgical instruments, and the surgeon operates them from a console in the operating room.

Robots provide surgeons with a greater range of motion than traditional surgery, and the precision they provide reduces recovery times and hospital stays.

Thanks to the faster recovery time from robotic surgery, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said it would “enable us to treat more patients faster and with better outcomes”.

Ms Speirs said: “When you’ve been told you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, it takes a while for it to really sink in because you never think it’s going to happen to you.”

After explaining the procedure in detail, she happily proceeded with the robotic surgery, saying, “The technology is amazing and within a few days after the surgery, I was up and walking.

“I wanted to start vacuuming when I got home from the hospital, but my daughter made sure I rested. It just shows how great it is for recovery. “

Surgeon at one of the consoles used in robotic surgery (NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde/PA)

Surgeon at one of the consoles used in robotic surgery (NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde/PA)

Professor Roxburgh said: “Robotic surgery has already shown huge improvements in patient care and recovery time.”

He emphasized that the surgeon “still has absolute control over everything that happens”, explaining that the medic uses a console that controls the instruments.

Professor Roxburgh said that with robotic surgery, “we have seen patients stay in hospital halved compared to conventional keyhole surgery because it is less invasive.

“In addition, it helps to reduce complications, imaging assessments, blood transfusions, readmission rates and infection rates.

“Deborah is just one example of many successful surgeries with this type of equipment.”

Neil McCallum, Director of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Northern Sector, said: “This innovative technology allows us to reduce the length of time a patient stays in hospital after surgery.

“At a time when we are facing increased pressure, it is great to highlight the extraordinary work our teams are doing and this procedure will allow us to treat more patients faster and with better results.

“I’d like to thank our teams who are constantly doing their best to provide our patients with the best possible treatment and care.”

David Marante, regional director at Intuitive, makers of da Vinci surgical systems, praised the “commitment” of doctors there to “expanding robotic surgery so that more patients can access minimally invasive care through our technology.”

He said: “Our ongoing aim is to provide technology training to more surgeons, trainees and care teams across Scotland as their da Vinci robotics programs develop to further reduce open surgery to improve patient outcomes and lower the total cost of care.”

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