When a relative called to chat I could feel that something was wrong. The usual light-hearted banter just seemed to have a dark edge. There was something that needed to be said and soon the news was delivered: A biopsy indicated prostate cancer.

Despite the fact that prostate cancer has one of the highest survival rates – approaching 100 percent when found and treated early – the words still strike fear in men and their loved ones.

As I continued to talk with him I realized that a journey was beginning for my relative. He would have to conduct a great deal of research to find the treatment option that he believed worked best for him.

This is not an article I’ve written to review all the methods available to treat prostate cancer. It is an article that reviews one treatment option that is growing in popularity and was ultimately the choice my relative made. Whether it might be the right option for you or someone you know is something only you, with the advice of your physician, will be able to determine.

Several Treatment Choices for Prostate Cancer

There are several treatments that are fairly well known and have been the preferred choices over the years. These include cryosurgery (where the prostate is frozen), prostatectomy (where surgery completely removes the prostate gland and some surrounding tissue; there are different methods of prostatectomy), radiation, hormone therapy, herbal treatments, and in some cases doing nothing at all (referred to as “watchful waiting”) until more evidence of the cancer growing is seen.

Sometimes the choices can be overwhelming and that’s what my relative found. There’s no guarantee that any particular choice he made was going to be better or more successful than another. Reading and re-reading information, talking to any number of medical professionals and experts, and doing his own research on the subject was a daunting assignment to say the least. But it was imperative that he not only made the right choice for him, but that he felt comfortable with his decision. And even with all the support from his family and friends, ultimately the decision was his own to make.

Newer Procedure Selected

 Surgery using the DaVinci SystemCredit: National Cancer Institute

In the end his choice was to select a relatively new procedure involving a robotic procedure that has been around for this type of surgery for only about a decade. It’s called the DaVinci Surgery System and involves the use of a robotic technique.  The use of a robotic device is not new for surgical procedures. Robot-assisted surgery has been available since around 1985.  But the DaVinci system was new when it was introduced in 2000 as the first system approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the purpose of laparoscopic surgery (a process where a laparoscope to see and remove the prostate by way of a long tube with a light and camera on the end is inserted through small cuts in the stomach).

My relative had to go through a maze of insurance and other hurdles before he was able to select a surgical hospital that used the DaVinci system – not all hospitals do so with more still utilizing other, more tested methods and many surgeons not yet trained on the process (having a surgeon who is well-trained and experienced with the system is critically important).

Less Traumatic, Invasive

The DaVinci system is considered by most experts to be a less traumatic and less invasive method of treating prostate cancer. One of the greatest benefits, says Dr. Peter Pinto of the National Cancer Institute, is that DaVinci offers a better chance at preserving the nerves that are critical in terms of fending off impotency and avoiding incontinence, two of the greatest concerns men have when it comes time to consider treatment options.

In the DaVinci surgical process fewer and smaller incisions are necessary than in other types of prostate surgeries. Through a cylinder the robotic tools enter the patient without the doctor’s hands ever having to enter the wound. The DaVinci system allows the doctor to keep his or her hands on the DaVinci console. Indeed, the console may actually be a distance from the patient – even in another part of the operating room entirely.

The DaVinci system allows the surgeon to view the surgery site in magnified two-dimensions thereby providing a clear image of the surgical area that is as near to seeing the area with the naked eye as possible. Surgeons also report there is greater range of motion with the DaVinci system than with previous methods of conducting prostate procedures. Another benefit of the system is that it helps eliminate the effect of any unwarranted movement – a slight hand shaking or the like.

DaVinci SystemCredit: National Cancer InstituteRecovery Time Reduced

Regardless of the procedure he chose, my relative was still nervous as the time approached for his surgery. He was comforted by the knowledge that the DaVinci system offered faster recovery because the incisions were smaller and there were less of them. But, it is surgery, and as with other prostate surgery types there is the need for a catheter to be inserted to help the area heal. In other types of surgery that may be as long as one or two weeks. With the DaVinci system the time a catheter remains is reduced to three or five days. And the length of the hospital stay after the surgery is reduced to as little as one day.

So, the day before the surgery my wife and I offered our prayers and well wishes. He seemed to be satisfied with the choice he had made. The day of the surgery we waited by the phone for news. We were confidant because our relative seemed comfortable in the choice he made and was confident about the outcome.

That evening we heard from his wife and indeed all had gone well. While the final results of the surgery would take a little while to determine we were relieved at the news and even more so when we were able to converse with our relative the following day.

As the weeks following the surgery passed there were times of discomfort to be sure. But after the catheter was removed and his doctor gave him the thumbs up the progress continued without incident.

Today our relative is just the same as he was before his surgery – healthy, happy and enjoying his life secure in the knowledge that he made the right decision for him.