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After Devastating Diagnosis, Robotic Surgery Brings Quick Recovery

For four or five months, Nancy experienced some unusual signs and symptoms. As a retired nurse, she knew that something was probably wrong. But she didn't expect her doctor to tell her she had stage I uterine cancer. There was no history of cancer in Nancy's family, and she had never had a more serious gynecological problem than fibroids.

"It was just devastating," she says. "I was afraid I was going to die."

And as upsetting as the diagnosis was for her personally, Nancy was concerned about more than just herself. Her husband, Joe, had a major stroke in 2000. Nancy was his primary caregiver.

Joe depended on her. What if something happened to her?

Robotic Surgery: An Option She Didn't Know She Had

Gynecological oncologist Jacob Tangir, MD, helped ease Nancy's fears. Although uterine cancer is a serious health issue, hers, fortunately, was in its early stages. It could be successfully treated with a hysterectomy and oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries).

Somewhat relieved, Nancy's concerns turned to how long she'd be recovering from surgery. And she received some more good news. While traditional hysterectomies require invasive procedures and a recovery period of four to six weeks, Nancy's hysterectomy could instead be performed via robotic surgery at the Robotic Institute of South Florida at Memorial Hospital Pembroke.

In robotic surgery, the patient is not "opened up," leaving a large, postoperative scar. Instead, robotic instruments are inserted into the patient through small openings in the skin. Viewing the surgical site on a 3D, high-definition screen, the surgeon performs the operation by controlling the instruments, which respond precisely to the doctor's commands.

Like traditional surgery, robotic surgery is performed under general anesthesia – but since patients only undergo a few small incisions, they usually heal much more quickly.

Effective Surgery – With a Faster Recovery

Nancy was relieved her recovery time would be far quicker with robotics. Not only would she experience less pain, reduced bleeding and minimal scarring – she would enjoy a faster return to her normal activities. Robotic surgery can return patients to their homes and families quickly, and save patients time away from work.

In fact, she was released from the hospital the next day.

Another, unexpected benefit of Nancy's surgery: When a small hernia was found during the procedure, it, too, was quickly repaired.

Finding and eliminating such minor problems as hernias often is possible because the robotic instruments help surgeons see better. With robotics, a camera can magnify structures within the body. This enhanced visibility is considered an important advantage of robotic technology.

'Family Friendly' in So Many Ways

Following her surgery, Nancy had six rounds of radiation treatments to help eradicate her cancer. Today, Nancy is pleased to report that follow-up tests continue to show her cancer-free.

"Everything is fine," she says.

Nancy is thrilled that her cancer was successfully treated with such minimal pain and discomfort. And because it was so important that she get back to her husband's side quickly, she's grateful the speed and convenience of robotic surgery helped make that possible.

"My procedure was done on a Friday, and I was out of the hospital the next day," she says. "Even though I was under general anesthesia for a couple of hours, I had not a bit of pain and no nausea afterward."

Back in the Swing of Things

Within a week, Nancy was back to her usual activities, caring for Joe, and selling mobile homes – a second career she's embarked on since her retirement from nursing.

"The small incisions healed really fast," she says. "Within a few days, I was out running around, driving my car – it was great."

Above everything else, Nancy is happy that she was treated at Memorial Hospital Pembroke – a facility that offered her the choice of robotic surgery.

"I wish more hospitals had it," she says. "I want people to know how easy robotic surgery is on the patient. They need have absolutely no fear or trepidation."


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