3 reasons your doctor might recommend robotic surgery
Depending on the type of cancer and its stage, your care plan may include surgery. Robotic surgery is one type of minimally invasive surgery. The surgeon uses a flexible scope with a camera and blade and views the site through a monitor, rather than doing the procedure over the patient.
“For patients who are not familiar with the technology, we explain that the robot is a tool that gives us special capabilities. It does not perform the surgery—the surgeon is always in control,” explains Mark Crye, MD, a thoracic surgeon who treats lung cancer and other conditions.
Here are three reasons your cancer care team may recommend robotic surgery:
The camera provides a 3-D visualization of the area. When that image is magnified on the monitor, it allows the surgeon to operate in very tight spaces with a good view and great dexterity. The robotic instruments mimic the human hand and wrist. “That really allows us the freedom to operate on very delicate structures, explains Crye.
Robotic surgery uses a very small incision site and tiny instruments, so patients often are able to return to regular activities sooner. But having a surgery team close to home provides an additional type of comfort, beyond the physical. “We see our patients through the entire course of their treatment, whether it‘s days, weeks or longer. If a surgery patient needs follow-up, they can be seen quickly by us and not have to be far from their family or home,” adds Ajay Jain, MD, who treats complicated stomach, liver, gallbladder and pancreatic cancers using robotic surgery.
Some types of cancer treatments increasingly are performed with robotic surgery, but the use of the tool is in concert with the surgeons‘ skills. The Upstate Cancer Center has both developed its robotic capability and brought in new faculty with the expertise. “Cancer care is complex, and that‘s why American Board of Surgery has recognized surgical oncology as a separate specialty,” explains Mashaal Dhir, MD, who is board certified and fellowship trained in both complex general surgical oncology and endocrine surgery, and also robotically trained.
Of note: The words “board certified” and “fellowship trained” indicate that a doctor has passed rigorous tests to national standards (“the boards”) and has performed years of training (a fellowship) in addition to a standard medical residency.
This article appears in the spring 2018 issue of Cancer Care magazine. Hear more on this topic by going to healthlinkonair.org and entering the term“robotic” in the search window (on the right side of the page).