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Expert Advice From the Professionals at East Jefferson General Hospital



In addition to existing treatments for prostate cancer, there is a new weapon available in our community for men suffering from this serious disease. The S-Generation daVinci Surgical System is a technological breakthrough that allows surgeons greater control over procedures and the outcome of surgery to treat prostate cancer. The daVinci is a robotic surgical system physicians use to treat only the affected area of the prostate using robotic "arms" operated from the robot's control center. While traditional full and partial prostatectomies — the procedures to remove all or part of the prostate gland — require incisions that measure several inches in length, the robotic arms of the daVinci system allow the physician to work through a much smaller incision, usually about one-half inch long. Although the prostatectomy is not the first option in treatment, it is a highly effective line of defense — and a common procedure. Similar advances using the robotic system have also proven beneficial in gynecological procedures such as hysterectomies.

"The robotic prostatectomy is a procedure that is extremely patient-friendly," says Dr. Sean Collins, an East Jefferson General Hospital urologist. "After a very small incision, the actual procedure is done using robotics. These patients are then able to go home the very next day."

The end result is a more precise procedure, shorter recovery time, less bleeding during the surgery and, because of less human contact, a decreased chance of post-operative complications. All of this allows the patient to return to family, work and normal daily life faster and without much of the pain associated with traditional surgery.

The availability of these types of advanced technologies can be a life-saving tool for many men suffering from prostate cancer. Nearly 250,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, and almost 30,000 of them die from it. With proper diagnosis and early detection, however, the five-year survival rate is almost 100 percent.

The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system that makes and stores a component of semen. It is located near the rectum and bladder and surrounds the urethra, the tube that empties urine from the bladder. Its location is what makes the prostate a bane for many men. A healthy prostate is about the size of a walnut. An enlarged prostate will begin to suffocate the urethra and interrupt the flow of urine. Left unchecked, an enlarged prostate can inhibit the flow of urine completely.

Research indicates that prostate cancer can be hereditary and that age is a significant factor; men over 65 are at an increased risk. Those with diets high in saturated fat and those who are obese are at high risk as well.

Men who have the following warning signs should consult a physician: weak or interrupted flow of urine, difficulty urinating, frequent urination (especially at night), blood in the urine, pain or a burning sensation while urinating, and continual pain in the lower back, pelvic area or upper thigh.

Your physician may recommend a Prostate-Specific-Antigen (PSA) Test. This blood test looks for elevated levels of a certain protein, which indicate a greater probability that cancer is present. In addition, a physician may perform an examination of the prostate gland, which is recommended yearly for men over the age 40 or those 45 and older who have been determined to be at high risk for prostate cancer.

Treatment options depend on what stage the cancer is in when it is detected and how affected the gland is. For early stages, one type of treatment is brachytherapy, in which a physician implants radioactive seeds in the prostate gland to kill cancerous cells and shrink the gland. Later stages may require radiation, chemotherapy or hormone therapy. If necessary, a physician may perform a prostatectomy. Under this scenario, a minimally invasive procedure such as the one using the daVinci system may be a preferred surgical method.

"We have made great strides in the fight against this cancer," Collins says. "With technology such as daVinci and other minimally invasive techniques at our disposal, men stand a greater chance of survival. They should not hesitate at all to seek treatment."

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