Bedford resident’s sight saved by world-first robot eye cancer operation

Bedford resident Irene Milton

Bedford resident Irene Milton, 85 and a grandmother of seven, faced the prospect of losing an eye due to cancer. Step forward surgeons at Moorfields Eye Hospital and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, who used world-first robotic surgery to remove the cancerous tumour and save Irene Milton’s eye.

Mrs Milton had a recurrent basal cell carcinoma on the inner corner of her right eye and was previously told she would have to have her eye removed in order to treat the cancer.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital have pioneered the use of robotic technology for surgery in the UK. These help surgeons perform precise procedures in a minimally invasive way, so patients can recover quicker.

In a two hour operation in March, surgeons from Guy’s and St Thomas’ and Moorfields Hospitals used the robotic technology to successfully remove Mrs Milton’s tumour while preserving the nerves and function of her eye.

Patient Irene Milton and one of her operating surgeons, Jean-Pierre Jeannon

Using more conventional methods, Mrs Milton would have lost her eye and had to undergo six months of radiotherapy which would have left her blind.

“I am so pleased at the outcome – I haven’t lost my eye and they got the cancer out. It’s such a relief, I’m over the moon,” said Mrs Milton, who has four children and was a sales assistant before retirement.

“It’s nice to know that you’re never too old to have anything done, especially pioneering surgery.”

Mrs Milton had two small tumours on her eye removed in the past 10 years but when the cancer recurred this time, she was referred to specialists at Moorfields Eye Hospital who collaborated with Guy’s and St Thomas’ to develop this new eye-saving procedure.

Jean-Pierre Jeannon and Asit Aurora, from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, were the operating surgeons.

“It’s the first time in the world that the robot has been used in this way for orbital surgery, and we hope we can treat more patients in the same way,” Jeannon said.

During the world-first surgery

Claire Daniel, consultant oculoplastic surgeon and lid oncology lead at Moorfields Eye Hospital, described the operation as ‘a world-leading advance in orbital surgery’.

“We have developed a highly specialised periocular cancer unit thanks to our excellent collaboration with Guy’s and St Thomas’, enabling us to share our expertise in treating these very difficult cases,” said Ms Daniel.