Your doctor explains that you’ll need surgery to treat your prostate cancer. The thought of surgery sends your mind racing to large incisions and long recovery times.
But since you’re in the early stages of the disease and the cancer is just limited to your prostate gland, your surgeon says minimally invasive surgery is an option.
In fact, he recommends something called a robotic-assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy, a form of robotic surgery to completely remove the prostate gland and surrounding tissue with small incisions.
Robotic surgery sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, where robots perform surgery in an operating room. And to some extent, that’s how robotic surgery works. Guided by a surgeon using foot and hand controls, robotic arms tackle the procedure.
Here’s a detailed look at the benefits of robotic prostatectomy and what you need to know about it.
Robotic surgery for prostatectomy makes it easier to access the prostate gland, surrounding tissue, and seminal vesicles for removal. The seminal vesicles are a pair of glands near the prostate gland that help make semen, explains the National Institutes of Health.
The walnut-sized prostate gland is located underneath the bladder but in front of the rectum, which normally would require a large incision.
Instead, surgeons use robotic arms and a tiny camera passed through five small keyhole-sized incisions made in the abdomen. With these tools, surgeons have greater range of motion, which allow them to cut out the prostate, seminal vesicles, and other nearby tissue.
Surgeons may also remove lymph nodes in the pelvis to be sure they show no signs of cancer as well, explains the National Library of Medicine (NLM).
You’ll have a drain in your abdomen left after your surgery to remove extra fluids after the procedure. A catheter is also inserted into your bladder to drain urine, which may remain for a few days or weeks.
The surgery generally lasts up to four hours with a hospital stay up to four days. Often times, you may go home a day after the procedure, says the NLM.
Since the robotic arms make sharp, fine, and precise incisions, it takes less time for them to heal. This also results in reduced pain, minimized loss of blood, and faster recovery time, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
Lower overall complication rates, surgical complication rates, and readmission rates also resulted from robotic radical prostatectomy surgery, reports a November 2013 study in the Journal of Endourology.
Surgery is not without its risks. After any type of radical prostatectomy surgery, two major side effects are common: urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction, says the ACS.
Urinary continence means you may struggle to control the flow of urine, resulting in leakage. However, this loss of control may only be temporary. It’s rare for men to lose this ability altogether, says the ACS. But it can be treated in the interim.
Generally, after prostate surgery, bladder control gradually returns after several weeks or months.
Although surgeons take care to prevent damage, surgery can sometimes damage the nerves and blood vessels that send blood to the penis to create an erection, which results in erectile dysfunction.
Some men are able to have erections well after surgery, but every man is different. If erectile dysfunction is an issue, discuss treatment options with your doctor, which include oral medications, mechanical pumps, and penile implants.
Despite these side effects, there is still some good news about prostate cancer surgery. Treatments for prostate cancer often completely remove or destroy the cancer, reports the American Cancer Society.
CALL TO ACTION: To learn more about whether you’re a candidate for robotic prostatectomy, schedule an appointment with a specialist at Timpanogos Regional Medical Center.