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Benefits of Robotic Surgery for Prostate Cancer

Medically reviewed by Christina Chun, MPH on October 30, 2017Written by Valencia Higuera on October 30, 2017
robotic prostate surgery

After diagnosing and staging your prostate cancer, your doctor will decide on treatment. Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer, size of the tumor, and the likelihood of treating the disease. Your doctor may recommend radiation, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, surgery, or a combination of treatments.

  • Chemotherapy and radiation are designed to shrink and kill cancer cells.
  • Hormone therapy stops the growth of cancer cells. Surgery removes the prostate gland.
  • Surgery is an option if the cancer hasn’t spread beyond the prostate gland.

Several minimally invasive techniques are available for prostate surgery. One such option is robotic prostate surgery.

What is robotic prostate surgery?

Robotic prostate surgery is performed using a robotic interface known as the da Vinci Surgical System. The procedure is like laparoscopic surgery. The main difference is that it involves computer help.

The surgeon sits at a control unit with a 3-D, magnified view of the surgical area. You’ll lie on the operating table next to an interface with robotic arms. The surgeon manipulates the robotic arms from the control unit. The arms make the incisions, perform the surgery, and stitches the wound.

Robotic surgery technology requires specialized training and isn’t available everywhere. There are benefits to choosing robotic surgery over traditional procedures if you’re a candidate for it.

1. Accuracy

Even if your surgeon has years of experience, mistakes happen. Robotic surgery for prostate cancer may reduce any accidental hand movements or shakes. This can result in more accurate incisions and fewer errors.

2. Reduced pain

You can expect some pain after a surgical procedure. Pain levels vary depending on the type of operation and the location of the surgery. With robotic prostate surgery, you may experience less pain due to the smaller incision. You may not need prescription pain medication after surgery (although you may experience minor discomfort). Smaller incisions also result in less bleeding during and after surgery.

3. Shorter hospital stay

Many people want to return home soon after surgery and recover in their bed. But some surgical procedures require spending a few nights in the hospital. This allows your doctor to observe your condition after the procedure.

The length of time spent in the hospital varies depending on the severity of the surgery. There is a longer incision in the abdomen with traditional surgery. This means you may need to stay in the hospital for several days after surgery. But robotic surgery is minimally invasive. You may return home one day after surgery.

4. Remove catheter sooner

After prostate surgery, expect to wear a catheter for about two to three weeks to drain your bladder. Some men have difficulty controlling their urine after prostate surgery This temporary problem will resolve itself in a few weeks. With robotic prostate surgery, your doctor may be able to remove the catheter one week sooner.

5. Minimum scarring and faster healing

Because of the small incision, a scar from this type of operation will be smaller and less noticeable than that of other surgical techniques. Recovery time is also quicker with robotic surgery.

After a traditional surgical procedure, enjoying regular activity and going back to work can take many weeks. It may also take longer than a week to drive or return to work.

Robotic prostate surgery is a major surgery. Even so, with smaller incisions, some men can resume most activities and drive after one week. It may take up to six weeks to resume strenuous activities. You might also be able to return to work as early as one week after the procedure.

Keep in mind that recovery times differ for each person, so pace yourself and listen to your body.

Outlook

A prostate cancer prognosis with surgery depends on the stage of the cancer and the size of the tumor. The five-year survival rate is 90 percent when the cancer is localized and hasn’t spread outside the prostate gland, says the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Even with a high survival rate, there are possible complications of surgery. These include bleeding during surgery, blood clots, and infection. Talk to your doctor about how to reduce your risk of complications during and after surgery.

Robotic prostate surgery lowers this risk but requires working with an experienced surgeon. If you’re a candidate for traditional prostate surgery, you may be a candidate for robotic prostate surgery.

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