June 24, 2019
Dr. Helen Steed (far left, at console) demonstrates use of Firefly, a fluorescence imaging upgrade to the da Vinci Surgical System. Firefly was made possible by the Lois Hole Hospital Women’s Society, who raised $250,000 for the equipment.
Story by Amelia Schofield | Photo by Ken Dalton
EDMONTON — Thanks to the Lois Hole Hospital Women’s Society, women now have access to an enhanced treatment for certain gynecological cancers, with a new state-of-the-art attachment to the da Vinci surgical robot at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women.
Firefly, a fluorescence imaging upgrade to the da Vinci Surgical System, can be used to treat some women with primarily early stage cancers of the cervix and uterus. The Lois Hole Hospital for Women is currently the only centre in western Canada using this technology for gynecology oncology surgery. The da Vinci Surgical System is designed to facilitate complex surgery using a minimally invasive approach, and is controlled by a surgeon from a console.
“The addition of the Firefly allows surgeons to reduce the number of lymph nodes to remove, which results in less invasive procedures, faster recovery times and, ultimately, less pain and discomfort for patients,” says Dr. Helen Steed, gynecological oncology surgeon at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women. “This enhancement is significant for patient recovery and outcomes.”
When enabled, Firefly uses a dye that lights up using a specialized fluoroscopic camera. This affords surgeons a better view of cancerous tumours and lymph nodes closest to the tumour, which are at the greatest risk of becoming cancerous.
The Firefly also illuminates the flow of blood and lymphatic fluid that can carry cancerous cells. With this new technology, surgeons have an improved ability to remove the tumour and surrounding lymph nodes most at risk of being cancerous, while leaving more healthy tissue untouched.
Made possible by the Lois Hole Hospital Women’s Society, the $250,000 Firefly was funded completely through donor contributions — and was the Society’s inaugural fundraising endeavour.
Sharlene Rutherford — as vice president and chief operating office for the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation, as well as a founding member of the Lois Hole Hospital Women’s Society — knows what it feels like to be a grateful fundraiser. Bur more recently, she also joined the growing number of women who are grateful patients of donor-funded equipment.
During a routine exam last October, Rutherford’s family physician caught signs of cervical cancer. Following a procedure to remove the cancer in January, Rutherford learned there were cancer cells in her cervical canal, and the potential risk for cancer in a lymph node.
In March, Rutherford received a full hysterectomy using Firefly, and is now cancer-free.
“I’m proud of my work as a fundraiser for the da Vinci robotic surgical system at the Lois Hole, and it’s been immensely gratifying to see the robot continue to evolve its technology and surgical prowess because of the Lois Hole Hospital Women’s Society,” she says.
“The goal has always been to improve women’s health and outcomes for patients diagnosed with gynecological cancers. I never thought I might be one of those women, but I’m so grateful the technology and expertise were available when I needed it.”
Dr. Verna Yiu, AHS president and CEO, says the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation and the Lois Hole Hospital Women’s Society have been instrumental in enhancing the surgical treatment of cervical and uterine cancers.
“The Lois Hole Women’s Society’s inaugural fundraising endeavour is already making a profound impact on the lives of women impacted by cancer across our province,” says Dr. Yiu.
“Thanks to a strong partnership with the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation, our staff and physicians can continue to provide Albertans access to the most advanced gynecological oncologic care in Canada.”
More information on how to join the Lois Hole Hospital Women’s Society.