Builder’s amazing recovery after robotic surgery to remove cancerous tumour

Date: 06 October 2017

steve bradbury   web

Photo: Bacup builder Steve Bradbury is back at work just weeks after cancer surgery using the Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital's Da Vinci robot 



A Lancashire grandad has revealed how he was spared major surgery and avoided the need for radiotherapy and chemotherapy after having a cancerous tumour removed from his throat by Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital’s revolutionary robot.


Builder Steve Bradbury, 66, who lives in the village of Weir near Bacup, has made such a miraculous recovery following the procedure that he was back at work carrying out physical tasks within weeks.


Steve says he feels highly privileged as he is one of the first head and neck patients to undergo the operation using the robot at Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital.


East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust is leading the way as not only was it the first trust to install a surgical robot in Lancashire, it is currently the only hospital in the North West that is carrying out head and neck surgery robotically.


Steve, who is married to Jean and has a son and a daughter and four grandchildren, says his ordeal began soon after he returned from a holiday in Tenerife last September.


He explains: “While I was on holiday, everything was fine as I was shaving and had not noticed anything unusual on my neck.


“But about a fortnight after I returned, I noticed a lump in my neck. I could see it and feel it.


“It wasn’t very big and it didn’t hurt and I just thought it was a swollen gland.”


Steve left it a couple of weeks and then went to see his doctor. He also thought it was probably only a swollen gland but told him he wanted to get it checked out just in case.


Steve was referred to Royal Blackburn Hospital where a needle biopsy confirmed it was cancer. Steve then underwent a series of a CT scan, a PET scan and an MRI scan, as well as X-rays.


Initially, medics told Steve they might be able to get rid of the cancer with radiotherapy, but then they discovered it was possible for the tumour to be removed by the hospital’s robot.


Steve was introduced to Naseem Ghazali, a consultant in oral and maxillofacial and head and neck oncology and reconstruction surgeon at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust who is pioneering the use of the robot in head and neck surgery at the trust.


The hospital trust installed the £1.3m Da Vinci robot in the theatres at Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital in June 2015.


Although the robot has been mainly used for removing the prostate gland in prostate cancer cases, the trust is continually expanding the number of procedures carried out using the robot.


Miss Ghazali joined East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust in July last year and before coming to East Lancashire she completed her fellowship in America at the University of Maryland in Baltimore.


While she was out there, she had training in and experience of using the robot in head and neck patients.


Miss Ghazali says: “East Lancashire Hospitals Trust had aspirations to further develop their use of the robot and were keen to take me on so they could diversify the use of the robot and use it for as many specialities as possible.


“Hearing the trust had a robot was one of the main reasons I wanted to come here as it sounded an exciting opportunity.


“If you look at the use of robotic surgery worldwide, it is predominantly used for urology. However, it is extremely useful in head and neck cases.


“One of the advantages in doing these cases robotically is that the robot allows us to carry out minimal access surgery in the mouth, the back of the throat and in the head and neck area.


“Before the robot, in order to access these areas, you would have needed to do radical surgery on the face and split the lip and split the jaw.


“With the robot, you don’t need to do this. Patients have a better experience of surgery, they will have a quicker recovery, their speech will be better and their swallowing functions will be better. Their stay in hospital will also be shorter.”


Miss Ghazali has now done around five head and neck cases using the robot and Steve was only her third patient at the trust to have the surgery using the robot.


Steve says: “It was a two part operation. The first operation was to remove my lymph nodes and after recovering from this, I had to go in immediately to have the tumour removed with robotic surgery.


“The procedure only took 25 minutes and medics came over from Germany to see it done.


“The robot was huge with about eight arms and Miss Ghazali sat in a corner of the room controlling it.


“I had the tumour and one of my tonsils removed by the robot and everything was a success.


“A few days later, after looking at the scans, Miss Ghazali said they just wanted to go back in with the robot to take off some of the scar tissue so they did this.


“With the robot, you can go back in after it has healed, but with chemotherapy and radiotherapy, surrounding tissue is damaged.


“The robot is absolutely marvellous as not only does it do the surgery, it stitches you back up as well.


“Without the robot, they would have had to split my bottom lip to my chin then cut into my jaw to open it up like a book and then split my tongue as the tumour was in such an awkward position.


“Not only was I spared this, but because they managed to remove the tumour entirely, I did not need radiotherapy or chemotherapy.


“The only medication I needed was iron medicine and paracetamol!


“I was confident in Miss Ghazali and her team right from the start and the robot was absolutely fantastic in what it did for me.


“Miss Ghazali is brilliant and is very dedicated and sensitive. She even comes in on her days off and works late to make sure everyone she has operated on is okay.


“I feel really privileged to have had this surgery robotically as it meant my recovery was very quick.


“I am back to work as normal doing a very physical job and living a full life and it is all down to that robot.


“I cannot thank Miss Ghazali and the staff at East Lancashire Hospitals enough for what they did for me. They are all amazing.”

  • Summary:

    A Lancashire grandad has revealed how he was spared major surgery and avoided the need for radiotherapy and chemotherapy after having a cancerous tumour removed from his throat by Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital’s revolutionary robot.

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