When Brian Johnson received a home kit to test for bowel cancer, he decided he should get it done even though he felt perfectly healthy and had no symptoms of anything unusual.
When the results were abnormal. Brian was told to go to see his GP and was referred to hospital for a colonoscopy.
Brian, 67, who lives in Eccleston near Chorley, says: “I went for the procedure and the consultant told me he had not been able to complete it as there was a blockage.”
Brian underwent various scans and was told he had a tumour on his bowel which had gone from his lymph nodes into his liver.
The surgeon then proposed to operate on Brian using Lancashire Teaching Hospital’s new robotic surgical system which is one of the projects being funded by the Rosemere Cancer Foundation’s 20th anniversary appeal.
The Da Vinci XI is the most advanced robotic surgeon and the Rosemere Cancer Centre is the first place north of England to have such an advanced system.
The robot has five octopus-like arms and fully jointed tiny wristed instruments which allow surgeons to access difficult to reach parts of the body using keyhole incisions.
The robot is controlled by a surgeon from a console linked to a magnified £D high definition vision system suspended above patients on the operating table.
Brian, who is married to Eileen and has four children and four grandchildren, had the bowel surgery carried out by the robot and was told the procedure had been a success.
Brian was able to go home just two days after the operation.
Brian, who worked for Royal Mail for more than 20 years and then worked as a bus and coach driver until his retirement, then had keyhole surgery at Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital to remove the lesions on his liver.
Brian says: “I had two operations within a couple of months but I feel completely fine now.
“I think the robot is an amazing development and it is wonderful that they can do these things.
“The robot can get to places where the human hand can’t.
“If I had had normal open bowel surgery, I would have been in hospital for a week if not more.
“But instead, I was home within a couple of days.
“I had never had surgery before this but I would full recommend this surgery to anyone who needs it.
“I had no qualms about having it done at all.”
Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK, with one in 14 men and one in 19 women diagnosed with the condition in their lifetime.
All men and women aged 60 to 74 are invited to carry out a faecal occult blood (FOB) test. Every two years, they’re sent a home test kit, which is used to collect a stool sample.
Following his own experience, Brian is urging people to carry out the test and not to let embarrassment stop them from getting checked out.
Brian says: “Anyone who gets these kits in the post, don’t just ignore them.
“I was walking around with this tumour but did not have any symptoms I was aware of so did not know about it until I did the test.
“I consider myself very lucky.
“Don’t be embarrassed.
“If you are diagnosed with bowel cancer, your dignity goes out of the window but that does not matter if you are getting cured.”
Arnab Bhowmick, divisional medical director of surgery at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, says: “There are several ways of doing bowel surgery when someone has a serious abnormality.
“One is traditional open surgery which has a large incision and is very painful for the patient and has a long length of stay in hospital.
“Another method is by using conventional keyhole surgery. However, the instruments are starting to get outdated as they are straight and have a grasping or cutting element to them.
“This means they have limited mobility.
“The latest technology is the robotic technology which allows movement inside the patient which is similar to the human wrist movement. You can go up and down and side-to-side.
“This allows much more freedom for movement inside the patient.
“Also, the vision is clear, crisp and three-dimensional so surgeons who use the robot have precise vision.
“Surgery using the robot is also minimally invasive.
“The Da Vinci XI robot is the latest and most state-of-the-art robot available.
“It is particularly versatile as you can use it in a multi-directional way.
“We are very grateful to Rosemere for allowing us the opportunity to have the very latest robotic surgery and we are doing everything we can to support the 20th anniversary appeal.”
The Rosemere Cancer Foundation celebrated its 20th anniversary by launching a £1.5m fundraising appeal.
Funding the robotic system costing £1.25m is a major part of the appeal.
The appeal will also be funding a new research facility at a cost of £92,000. This will allow patients to take part in early phase clinical trials.
The final element of the appeal is to raise money to re-develop Rosemere Cancer Centre’s in-patient Ribblesdale Ward.
The aim is to transform the traditional ward into a modern, home-from-home place with areas to socialise as well as private bays to provide quiet and restful areas for patients and relatives.