'Don't die of embarrassment'

Michael's robot surgery for bowel cancer

How getting check early saved my life

60-year-old Mike from Buckinghamshire had been having regular annual health check-ups, but also used the NHS qFIT kit in July.  He received the result very quickly and was told that his screening showed traces of blood.

Mike said: “I’d been taking health tests every year through my work and I had no symptoms of any health issues so this came as a huge surprise to me”.

Having lost his older brother to bowel cancer at just 58 in 2017, Mike began to worry whether he may also receive the same diagnosis. On the 1st of August, Mike was booked in for a colonoscopy with the NHS when the doctors said they spotted something suspicious. 

Mike said: “I’m a very active man and as I had no signs or symptoms of any health issues so I was starting to get a bit worried. I’m a non-smoker and regularly keep fit and eat healthy so I was confused what this could be”. 

After having multiple scans and tests over the next 20 days, doctors soon discovered that Mike had developed bowel cancer. 

Bowel area highlighted

What is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer is a form of cancer that begins in the large bowel. Depending on where the cancer starts, bowel cancer is sometimes called colon or rectal cancer. It is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK.

Robotics surgery

With his wife and family supporting him along the way, Mike was quickly appointed an NHS surgeon and medical team in late August. Mike was told that laparoscopic surgery would be the best option to remove the tumour, however, he was interested to see whether robotics surgery could be another option for him.

Mike said: “I knew about robotics from my work at Johnson & Johnson and I’d heard that there were a lot of benefits of having robotics surgery rather than other types of surgery so it was something I was really interested in”.

After being told robotics surgery was not available to Mike in the NHS Trust he attended, Mike’s wife, Geraldine, began researching into other facilities that could - The Wellington Hospital, home to the Colorectal and Robotic Surgery Centre being one of those facilities. Mike then contacted his work healthcare service and asked to book in an appointment with Consultant Colorectal Surgeon, Mr Danilo Miskovic, to discuss how robotics surgery would work.

Mike said: “As soon as I met Mr Miskovic, I was blown away. I knew he was an expert in robotic surgery but he took great care and time to explain my diagnosis and this showed me just how he much he knew about how bowel cancer operates”.

Mike spent about an hour with Mr Miskovic, talking through the advantages of robotics vs laparoscopic surgery and exactly how they would plan to remove the tumour. That same afternoon, Mike knew he wanted to go ahead with his surgery at The Wellington Hospital.

Da vinci robot

Robotics Vs Laparoscopic surgery

Laparoscopic and robotic surgery are both minimally invasive and very commonly used forms of surgery for procedures typically in the abdomen and pelvis. These two types of surgeries differ from traditional open surgery as they require small incisions and use a camera to magnify the view of the procedure. Laparoscopic surgery is performed by hand whereas robotic surgery requires the surgeon to operate instruments from outside the patient’s body using a console and three-dimensional camera.

On the day of surgery

Mike said: “When the surgery day came round, I must admit I was quite frightened of the whole experience. I’m a well-travelled, confident guy but the lead up to my surgery was quite daunting. Being welcomed by the anaesthesia team and nurses made me feel a lot more comfortable and really helped to put me at ease before the surgery”.

Mike underwent a robotic anterior resection of the colon and rectum and the tumour was successfully removed. Robotic surgery works by inserting keyhole instruments through tiny incisions. The instruments are attached to robotic arms that enable the surgeon to perform extremely accurate movements inside the patient’s abdomen. This leads to blood-less high precision surgery which is especially important when treating cancer. 

Mike woke up in recovery and spent the following days speaking to Mr Miskovitch about how it all went.

Mr Miskovitch said: “I was really pleased with how the surgery went. Robotics surgery for colorectal cancer means you can perform precise dissections. It allowed us to view the tumour through a three-dimensional surgical view and helped us to eliminate any tremor and movement giving us maximum control over the removal of the tumour and increasing the likelihood of successful surgery”.

Mike said: “It felt like I hadn’t even had surgery, I felt healthy and had hardly any pain afterwards.  I was even able to walk up and down the surgery ward on the Wednesday morning! I felt well enough to leave there and then but the doctors assured me that it would be best to stay in the hospital until Thursday just in case”.

Post operation, Mike met Mr Miskovic for an initial follow-up and was reassured to hear there were no infections or complications following his surgery. 

Following surgery

Mike now feels better than ever and can’t believe how quickly his life has changed over the past couple of months.

Mike said: “It was crazy to me how quickly my life has changed over the past couple of months – when I first received the diagnosis, I thought this would be an ongoing battle that may last years but my surgery was sorted so quickly and I couldn’t be happier with how it all went”. 

Taking some time off work, Mike recently took a holiday to celebrate his successful treatment and is really looking forward to what his future holds and spending more quality time with his family.

Mike said: “If anything, what I’ve learnt most is just how important it is to get regular health checks and how men shouldn’t be embarrassed to get themselves checked. I had no symptoms, no health-related issues and if it wasn’t for that annual health check, I would never have known I had this. Bowel cancer is a silent killer and I just wish my brother had gone to get himself checked out earlier as it may have saved his life too”. 

I can’t thank Mr Miskovitch and the team at The Wellington Hospital enough. I felt very well looked after and I was really impressed with how quickly they sorted my surgery. If there’s one takeaway from my experience, I encourage everyone and especially men to get themselves checked out. Its such an easy process and it could save your life – don’t die of embarrassment”.

The Colorectal & Robotic Surgery Centre at The Wellington Hospital is one of the UKs leading colorectal and robotic surgical services. Mr Danilo Miskovic and Mr Charles Evans are national experts and trainers in robotic colorectal practice with a broad range of experience in the minimally invasive treatment of colon and rectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, diverticular disease, functional bowel disorders and abdominal hernias. 

This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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