Offering Women With Cancer The Surgical Robot

Armen Hareyan's picture
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For a woman facing gynecologic cancer surgery, her best chance for a successful outcome is to choose a gynecologic oncologist, a physician who has undergone extensive training in the surgical treatment of cancers of the female reproductive system. The complexity of the female anatomy and its close proximity to other major organs in the abdomen often means that a cancer that attacks one of the reproductive organs can easily spread to the bladder, colon, or other vital organs. Not only must the malignancy in the reproductive organ be removed, but sections of other major organs may also need to be removed or repaired to give the patient her best chance for survival and preserve her quality of life.

That's why women who are treated for gynecologic cancers at The Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center benefit from the expertise of Daniel H. Smith, M.D., a gynecologic oncologist who is board-certified in obstetrics/gynecology, gynecologic oncology, and general surgery. Dr. Smith is among only a handful of doctors in the world who are board-certified in all of these three specialties. He serves as chief of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at The Cancer Center.

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Dr. Smith's unique background enabled him to envision and then execute further surgical advances by adding another member to his surgical armamentarium -- a daVinci surgical robot. Used in the past mostly for urologic and cardiac applications, the daVinci afforded Dr. Smith a new surgical frontier in his quest to make gynecologic cancer surgery easier and safer for patients. Dr. Smith trained extensively on the robot, and then recruited Babak Litkouhi, M.D., a gynecologic oncologist from Ridgewood, NJ, who completed his fellowship at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and who has trained extensively on robotic surgical procedures.

"With our gynecologic oncology team, we have one of the best and most experienced Divisions of Gynecologic Oncology," says Andrew L. Pecora, M.D., chairman and executive administrative director of The Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center. "The Cancer Center has made a major commitment to women with gynecologic malignancies by bringing together Drs. Smith and Litkouhi and supporting their efforts to offer patients innovative and personalized care."

Drs. Smith and Litkouhi use minimally invasive techniques with the laparoscope or the daVinci robot to treat patients with cervical, endometrial, and early ovarian cancers. Minimally invasive gynecologic surgery with the robot is performed within keyhole abdominal incisions, thus lowering the post-operative risks of pain, wound infections, and difficulties with urinary and respiratory systems. Most patients go home the day after surgery.

"Experience is showing that robotic surgery for gynecologic cancers is at least or more effective than traditional surgery without debilitating side effects," says Dr. Smith, who has been treating gynecologic cancers for almost 30 years. "Robotic surgery can be a good choice for older patients, especially those on multiple medications or anti-coagulants, and obese patients, who were once exempted from some types of laparoscopic gynecologic surgeries."

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