Teen has first robotic surgery for testicular cancer

Posted on Tuesday 5th October 2021
Hugo smiling and holding a trophy

Hugo, who has been able to play cricket this summer, thanks to robotic surgery.

A teenage boy has undergone the first paediatric robotic surgical procedure for testicular cancer in the UK, at Evelina London.

Hugo Pattison, 14, is the first teenager to have robotic surgery at Evelina London and to receive this type of procedure by surgical robot in the UK. 

Hugo said: “I feel incredibly lucky to be the first young patient to undergo robotic surgery at Evelina London. I am so relieved to have avoided the significant scarring and recovery time that would have come from open surgery. Hopefully this means that other children can receive this procedure in the future.”

Hugo, from Norfolk, was diagnosed with stage 3 testicular cancer in February 2021. He was treated for his cancer at Addenbrooke’s Hospital and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. This involved surgery to remove a cancerous tumour and three courses of chemotherapy, but a CT scan showed that his lymph nodes were three times the normal size and would need to be removed.

Hugo was transferred to our hospital to have robotic surgery to remove potentially cancerous lymph nodes from the back of his abdomen at the end of June. Typically, removing lymph nodes from the back of the abdomen after chemotherapy is a major operation with a number of potential complications, and patients would expect to face months of recovery. Robotic surgery is less invasive and allows patients to recover more quickly.

Evelina London is part of Guy’s and St Thomas’, which has the largest robotic programme in the UK. Ben Challacombe, consultant urological surgeon and clinical robotic surgery lead at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: “Removing abdominal lymph nodes is a tricky procedure as they’re positioned next to the main artery by the spine, and blood vessels that supply the kidneys. Using robotic surgery allows for enhanced precision in removing targeted areas.

“It was a huge team effort to make Hugo’s surgery happen, bringing a specialist clinical team over from Guy’s Hospital and designing new clinical protocols as not all adult surgical procedures are available for paediatrics. This five hour operation was an excellent collaboration of surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses across Guy’s and St Thomas’ and Evelina London. Hugo’s surgery paves the way for the future of paediatric robotic surgery.”

Instead of a lengthy six-month recovery period with conventional surgery, Hugo was back playing cricket with his friends within a few weeks. The procedure removed two large lymph nodes and biopsies of the surrounding 31 nodes showed no cancer.

Hugo’s dad, Arthur Pattison, said: “Hugo’s sport and his interaction with his coaches and teammates is incredibly important to him. We were determined to minimise the disruption to Hugo’s summer of sport and outdoor physical activity. For us, this is such an important part of his mental wellbeing.

"Hugo has now received the all clear from his consultants. There is currently no evidence of any cancer remaining. We are absolutely delighted with this news and we are so thankful to all the care teams who have helped Hugo through his journey with testicular cancer.

"We felt Ben and his team really addressed Hugo’s concerns around open surgery. We were supported every step of the journey. Having robotic surgery allowed Hugo to walk out of hospital just two days after his surgery and he was back playing cricket with his teammates just three weeks later.”

Lance Tooke, clinical director for paediatric surgery at Evelina London said: “I’m really proud of the adult and paediatric teams that ensured that Hugo had the best care Guy’s and St Thomas’ could offer. We hope to be able to support Ben Challacombe and the children’s urology service in further developing a paediatric robotic service.”

Testicular cancer typically affects men aged 15 to 40. If you or your child has concerns or symptoms that might be testicular cancer, please speak to your GP.