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'Robots helped treat my prostate cancer'

By John Fox for CNN
John Fox: "Technology saved my life."




Medical research
Technology (general)

(CNN) -- John Fox was diagnosed with prostate cancer two years ago. After researching different treatments on the Internet, he elected to have laproscopic radical prostatectomy surgery -- a procedure less intrusive than traditional treatments. Here is his story:

In September 2003, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer at 50 years of age. All my life I'd been relatively healthy. After turning 50, I thought it would be prudent to have an overall physical exam. To my surprise, I had a serious problem that had not been evidenced by any symptoms.

Faced with the prospect of battling cancer, I burned up the Internet seeking information regarding my options. My urologist at the time recommended the traditional route of a prostatectomy, a procedure fraught with negatives, including incontinence and impotence. Another option, although not recommended due my "young" age, was radial seeding.

In my research on the Internet, I discovered another option that had not been well publicized, and certainly wasn't an option discussed by my doctors at that time ---- LRPS. Laproscopic radical prostatectomy surgery is a procedure using micro surgical instruments inserted in the body via a few small incisions. The doctor is guided by a camera and is able to use great precision in performing surgery. The upside of this procedure is that it is relatively bloodless, less intrusive as there is not a large incision, and facilitates nerve-sparing procedures to reduce the risk of incontinence and impotence.

Despite being a relatively new procedure with not much history, it sounded like a perfect solution. Recovery from this surgery is measured in a few weeks instead of months, the hospital stay is typically only one day versus five to seven days, the surgery is less intrusive and virtually bloodless, and the risk of nerve damage resulting in incontinence and/or impotence is greatly reduced.

As a technologist (and occasional poker player), I decided this was the right solution for me. I found two doctors in northern New Jersey, 20 minutes from my home. Dr. Esposito was having much success with this procedure. In fact, they had improved the LRPS procedure by using a newer technology called the Da Vinci system. This system leverages LRPS and uses robotics to ensure greater precision in execution of the surgery. As an example, using this system they're able to use a much higher number of stitches than humanly possible when reconnecting the urethra. The precision also helps with nerve-sparing techniques.

In my case, the procedure was remarkably successful. One day after surgery, I walked out of the hospital. Except for a few uncomfortable days with a catheter in place and two to three weeks of limited incontinence, all is well.

Technology saved my life on two fronts. First, access to information on the Web increased my awareness about my options and prior patients' experiences. I became aware of LRPS and of outstanding doctors who were using this procedure only six miles from my home.

Secondly, the Da Vinci system that employs robotics in laproscopic surgery reduced my recovery time and significantly mitigated the downside risks of surgery. While technology helped me to live a longer and more productive life, I'd be remiss in not recognizing the outstanding skills of Doctor Michael Esposito, my urologist.

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