In Good Health: Robotic Prostatectomy
One in seven men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime, 3% of those men will die from it but it is relatively treatable if it’s found early enough.
Fortunately, there’s robotic technology that allows surgeons to remove the cancer while saving structures they couldn’t always save in the past.
Whitney Amann explains the process surgeon’s at McLaren Northern Michigan can now use for this In Good Health.
Michael Greer is healthy, active and loves spending time with his family and walking his dog.
“I had a friend say to me, you’re the most healthy person I know, and I said, well, apparently not because I have prostate cancer.”
A diagnosis no one wants to hear.
“A couple of months ago, I went in for my annual physical and I had an abnormal result for my PSA.” said Greer. “My blood test was a little bit elevated.”
“It is completely clinically asymptomatic so the only way for us to reliably figure out if somebody has prostate cancer would be through getting a PSA on that blood test and so we’re looking at the number but more importantly, we’re looking at how that number has increased over the past couple of years,” said Doctor Matt Rohloff.
After meeting with Dr. Rohloff, a biopsy showed cancer on half of Michael’s prostate.
“I kind of, I guess, I anticipated potentially the worst since I am the king of worst case scenarios, my wife tells me, but it’s a little bit alarming and kind of a kick in the gut, so to speak,” said Greer.
Then it was time for Michael to hear his options.
“At that point I remember saying, ok, where do we go from here?” said Greer.
“It’s really based on grade and severity of the disease and so when you get a prostate biopsy, you’re given a score,” said Dr. Rohloff. “It’s called the Gleason Score.”
Based on that score, patients are put into different categories: low, intermediate and high risk to determine the best treatment option.
“Treatment options include surgery, robotic surgery, open surgery, radiation, hormonal therapy, freezing therapy, cryotherapy and some other experimental therapies,” said Dr. Rohloff.
Fortunately for Michael, a robotic prostatectomy was an option for him.
“It’s essentially a surgeon controlled robot that has four separate multiplanar arms that come over the patient and the control is completely surgeon oriented and we’re able to use these half an inch instruments to assist us in identifying all of these structures and save structures that we wouldn’t in the past have known were even there yet before,” said Dr. Rohloff.
Benefits include decreased blood loss, a shorter stay in the hospital, getting back to normal activities sooner and minimal pain medication.
“I was back to work within a week and a half working shortened days,” said Greer. “It’s not completely debilitating for your life, there is life afterwards.”
There are some concerns men may have with any prostate cancer treatment…
“There are two main things that will be affected in their life,” said Dr. Rohloff. “One of them is erections and the other one is incontinence afterwards.”
Dr. Rohloff says after the robotic surgery, 95% of men will regain complete continence within one year.
This kind of surgery also allows him to visualize structures they didn’t know were previously there.
“The nerves run right alongside the prostate and based on the patient’s pathology, the grade of their disease, the severity of the disease and where it’s located we will attempt to spare those nerves,” he said.
Thanks to the robotic prostatectomy and a great support system, Michael is becoming more active every day and back to walking his dog.
“I think sometimes there’s a stigma around prostate cancer being, oh, well, at least you only have prostate cancer and that’s treatable but it’s still a cancer,” said Greer. “So i just once again think we’re fortunate that a diagnosis doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world hopefully, it means a new beginning, which is in my in my case.”
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