Minimally Invasive Surgery Speeds Healing for Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men. The prostate is a gland that is involved in the production of semen. It is located between the bladder and the rectum. A normal prostate gland is the size of a walnut. It surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder.

One out of every six men will develop prostate cancer in his lifetime, and the risk increases with age. In many cases, though, men die with prostate cancer, not from it. Many prostate tumors are slow-growing and never pose a serious risk. This fact has created controversy among physicians about whether screening for prostate cancer is useful. It is important for men to discuss with their doctors the potential advantages and disadvantages of prostate cancer screening.

Once diagnosed with prostate cancer, men should talk with their health care providers about treatment options. Ultimately, men with localized prostate cancer may find themselves choosing between two basic forms of treatment, surgery or radiation therapy.

The point of surgery is to remove the prostate gland. Even within surgery, there are several surgical options for a patient to discuss with his health care team. These options include open surgery and minimally invasive surgery. In open surgery, the surgeon makes a large incision to remove the tumor or prostate. Depending on the patient and the disease, this may be necessary.

In minimally-invasive surgery, the surgeon makes much smaller incisions and uses a thin, lighted tube called a laparoscope to help remove the prostate. This procedure is called a laparoscopic prostatectomy. It uses several small incisions instead of one long incision along the man’s abdomen. Benefits of this type of surgery include shorter hospital stays, less bleeding, quicker recovery time, smaller chance of infection, and less pain and discomfort while recovering.

Many urologists will use a robot to help perform minimally invasive prostate surgery. Doing so makes the procedure easier for the surgeon to perform.

When I trained at Dartmouth, my colleagues and I learned to do minimally-invasive surgery without robotic assistance. As a physician, I want to make things as safe and comfortable as possible for my patients during their treatment.

Unfortunately, many people think robot-assisted surgery is better surgery. It’s not. There is no proven advantage to having robotic assistance.

This makes a difference to my patients because they can have minimally-invasive prostate surgery without driving out of town. Having the surgery locally means shorter trips for appointments, and that makes it easier on him and his family and friends.

Minimally invasive prostate surgery is still surgery. It may be the best option for many patients, but it’s important that men talk with their physicians, family, and health care team. There’s no one-size-fits-all treatment, so ask questions and voice your opinion before, during, and after a diagnosis of prostate cancer.

Dr. Anthony Donaldson is a urologist with SVMC Urology. He will be talking more about prostate cancer at the FREE cancer informative discussions event on March 31, at the Cambridge Hotel in Cambridge, N.Y. Continental breakfast will be served. To reserve your seat or for more information, call (802) 447-5019. To make an appointment with him, call (802) 447-6253. To learn more about SVMC, visit www.svhealthcare.org. “Health Matters” is a weekly column meant to educate readers about their personal health, public health matters, and public policy as it affects health care.