Health Watch

Robotic Whipple Procedure for Pancreatic Cancer

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cancer killer in the U.S. and the treatment can be brutal. However, doctors say advancements in robotic surgery can lessen the pain, speed up your recovery, and possibly improve your chances of survival.

Bob Dies never skips the chance to dance with his wife. Earlier this year, Bob was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and thought his dancing days might be over.

"It's the worst type of cancer," Bob Dies said.

Bob underwent a complex surgery called the Robotic Whipple procedure. His gallbladder and large portions of his stomach, pancreas, and small intestine were removed and the remaining pancreas and digestive organs were rebuilt and reconnected.

"That's why the operation is so complicated," Mokenge P. Malafa, MD, a Surgical Oncologist at the Moffitt Cancer Cente said.

That's also why these two surgeons use this robot to get it done.

Dr. Malafa claims that, "This technology actually allows us to sometimes see better, to sew better, and to cut better with less trauma to the tissue."

They also make several small incisions instead of one big one.

"There were four spots essentially where the arms of the robot went into my body," Dies said.

These doctors say it leads to less pain, shorter hospital stays, faster recoveries, and "the wound infection rate is very low from this," Kenneth Meredith, MD, FACS, Assistant Member Surgery and Oncology at the Moffitt Cancer said.

Bob says he was walking the day after surgery and is optimistic about a full recovery.

There are still side-effects to the surgery, including infection, bleeding, and trouble with the stomach emptying itself after meals. Not everyone is a candidate for this procedure, especially those who are obese and have had abdominal surgery before. Since this is a risky operation, the American Cancer Society says it's critical that you have the procedure done at a specialized institution and with doctors who have the most experience.

If you would like more information, please contact:

Patty Kim

Moffitt Cancer Center

(813) 745-7322

Patricia.Kim@moffitt.org

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