Women who need to undergo surgery for gynaecological cancers now have an option to have surgery that is less painful, results in less scarring, allows them to get back on their feet faster while being just as effective in removing cancer - by opting for robotic cancer surgery. With this surgical breakthrough, patients avoid the complications associated with more traditional approaches to surgery for women's cancers.
The Gynaecologic Robot-Assisted Cancer and Endoscopic Surgery at Singapore's National University Hospital surgical programme (GRACES @ NUH) started offering this option to gynaecologic cancer patients in August 2008. The first patient to receive this treatment was a 52-year-old woman with endometrial cancer. She was ready to be discharged after only 48 hours in hospital following a major cancer surgery, and was back on her feet in less than half the time it would take for a patient undergoing traditional surgery for endometrial cancer. She was able to accomplish this feat because she did not have to contend with the painful handicap of a sizeable surgical wound, the side effects of multiple pain medications or weakness from blood loss which remain common problems associated with traditional endometrial cancer surgery.
The GRACES @ NUH surgical team involved in this surgery comprised Dr Jeffrey Low and Prof Ilancheran (both Senior Consultants), Dr Joseph Ng (Consultant), Dr Fong Yoke Fai (Consultant) and Dr Suresh Nair (Visiting Consultant) from the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology.
What is Robot-Assisted Cancer Surgery?
Robot-assisted surgical systems involve two integral components - the Surgeon's Console and a Patient Cart. During the surgery, the surgeon sits at the console and controls the actions of the robotic arms that reside in the bedside patient cart where the actual cutting takes place.
Through this surgical system, the surgeon's technical expertise, understanding of disease and knowledge of human anatomy are enhanced by the robot's strength, stability, dexterity, and visualisation. The synergy between man and machine results in higher surgical functionality, which ultimately translates into better surgical outcomes for the patient.
Robot-Assisted Versus Traditional Cancer Surgery
Traditionally, cancer surgery requires that a patient's abdomen be opened as this approach allows the surgeon to use his hands naturally and directly while allowing direct visualisation of the structures. This approach leaves a large surgical wound with common complications of pain, infection and the likelihood of poor wound healing and wound infection. A slower return of bowel function, the need for intravenous fluid support and the need for IV medication to provide adequate post-operative pain relief result in longer hospital stays and slower return to normal daily functioning.