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Still Going Strong: Robotic Surgery For Prostate Cancer

What do Australian shock jock Alan Jones, Australian footballer Sam Newman, and American actor Ben Stiller have in common? The link may not be immediately obvious, but all three men have been treated for prostate cancer. In 2018, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates that 17 279 cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed with 3 500 men dying from the disease. Fortunately, a greater focus on this illness has resulted in improved methods of diagnosis and treatment.

Testing Times

Men over fifty, or those with a family history of this disease, may choose to be screened after a discussion with their G.P. Initially, your G.P. will conduct a prostate-specific antigen test (PSA) which will identify levels of a particular protein in the blood that can be a marker for prostate cancer. Elevated levels of this protein will result in a referral to a urologist and further testing. Should you be diagnosed with cancer, there are several treatments available. One option that may be offered is robotic-assisted laparoscopic prostatectomy (RALP).

Rise of the Robots

Understandably, you may be concerned about prostate surgery due to its intrusive nature and the risks of impotence or incontinence. One way to relieve your anxiety is the reassurance that a less-invasive, innovative treatment is available.

RALP is a type of keyhole surgery which is performed under general anesthetic. The surgeon controls a robotic unit which is placed next to the operating table. S/he sits behind a screen which provides a magnified 3-D view. The controls for the robotic unit are under the screen. Levels of accuracy are much greater with RALP as the robotic instruments can make tiny movements and won't shake. An overview of studies which compare RALP with more traditional surgical techniques identifies the following benefits:

In general, if your urologist recommends robot prostate surgery, your hospital experience and post-operative quality of life are more likely to be positive than with conventional methods.

Stiller Going Strong

Whilst prostate cancer can be a serious illness, your G.P. and urologist can dispel many fears. Not all prostate cancers are aggressive enough to require surgery. Should an operation be necessary, consider whether RALP is suitable for you. After all, Ben Stiller had his RALP operation in 2012, and he reports that everything is working well.