There is no more chilling moment than when a doctor tells you that a biopsy confirms the presence of can-cer. Few scenarios in life can be as difficult. Upon diagnosis, the physician refers a patient to an oncologist.
And that’s when I meet my patients for the first time. My patients are referred to me at a time when they have entered a world as foreign to them as outer space. It’s my job to help them find a path through this new world and then come back to restored health.
Most women don’t know there is a specialty in gynecologic oncology. It is relatively new, and women should be aware that there are doctors who spe-cialize in treating women’s cancers.
My patients typically come to me with ovarian, cervical, uterine, vagi-nal, vulvar or other cancers. For me, the most gratifying thing about cancer treatment today is how many options there are and how many minimally invasive procedures we now have. Not so long ago, the standard approach was radical surgery with large incisions. Period. But now, our patients are very fortunate in that we can offer a whole range of treatments. Better yet, each treatment can be designed for the spe-cific needs of each patient.
One of the latest options available is robotic surgery. It’s much less invasive, there’s less pain, less blood loss, lower risk of infection and other complica-tions, less scarring, shorter hospital stay and quicker recovery.
Operating through very small inci-sions, with high-definition 3-D minia-ture cameras, robotic “arms” translate my hand, wrist and finger movements, allowing me to perform complex yet delicate procedures with incredible precision and dexterity.
Minimally invasive surgery is not new. Robotic surgery is an evolution of laparoscopy, which allows surgeries by using a thin, lighted tube that goes through a small incision to the prob-lem area. It takes once complicated procedures and transforms them into minimally invasive procedures using proach, gall bladder removal is a mmatter of three small incisions and an oovernight hospital stay.
Similarly, with robotics, cancer sur-gery that once was radical and required several days in the hospital can now be accomplished so efficiently that the patient can go home the next day, or in some cases, even the same day.
Robotic surgery gives me the oppor-tunity to perform precise, delicate work in incredibly tiny spaces. It’s possible because everything is magni-fied 10 to 12 times and shown in three dimensions.
The instruments can actually respond to my touch in ways that tra-ditional instruments can’t equal. They are called “wristed” instruments, and the tips are smaller than the head on a dime. So, I can have a clear, three dimensional view of precisely what I’m doing, and can complete the sur-gery with less blood loss and less trauma to my patients.
Jupiter Medical Center has the most advanced robotic surgery technology, and I perform several robotic surgeries a week. As a robotic surgery instructor, I have mentored other medical doc-tors and professionals on the system. Robotic surgery is revolutionary, and I am confident it will become more widespread.
One of the most important messages I can give the women in our communi-ty is to have regular checkups. Because when a woman is referred to me with very early stage cancer, my job gets so much easier, and in all likelihood, her life will be so much longer.
— Donna Pinelli, M.D., is a Board Certified Gynecologic Oncologist and is the Medical Director of Jupiter Medical Center’s Robotic Surgery Program. For more information about robotic surgery, call 263-5737 or visit jupitermed.com/robotics.
— A not-for profit 283-bed commu-nity medical center consisting of 163 private acute care hospital beds and 120 long-term care beds, Jupiter Medi-cal Center provides a broad range of services. For more information, call 263-2234 or see jupitermed.com.