Robotic surgery for cancer treatment: What patients should know

For cancer patients who require surgery as part of their treatment, our doctors sometimes rely on robotic surgery to help remove hard to reach tumors, shorten surgery times or lessen side effects for patients. These tools first made their appearance in the late 1990s and are becoming more and more common in operating rooms. Robotic surgery doesn’t mean that a robot is performing the operation. Instead, it refers to when surgeons direct the surgery using robotic tools. Robotic surgery systems use one or more robotic arms that surgeons control remotely and precisely using a nearby console. One robot arm has a laparoscope. Other arms hold tiny surgical instruments that can fit into an incision less than an inch long. The surgeon sits at a screen that provides 3-dimensional views of the tumor. A joystick similar to that for a video game precisely controls each robotic arm, which mimics the motions of the wrist and hand, providing dexterity. Like many other surgical techniques, robotic surgery can offer some benefits for patients and surgeons alike, but it may not always be the best method. Here’s what patients should know about this treatment option. Benefits of robotic surgery The robotic device used in surgery are known for having greater dexterity and range of motion than humans have using traditional laparoscopic, or minimally invasive, surgery. This allows surgeons to operate on hard-to-reach parts of the body, and get closer looks at hard-to-see places. At MD Anderson, our doctors use robotic surgery for removing the prostate, part of the kidney, as well as removing tumors in the colon, lung and uterus. Robotic devices are...