Robotic cancer surgery is being introduced into the public hospital system for the first time in Victoria. The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne has been trialing the robotic key-hole surgery technology for the past six months.
Associate Professor Declan Murphy said that the robot is most commonly used on localized prostate cancer and it speeds patient recovery. “Normally, following open surgery for prostate cancer, patients are in hospital for six or seven days, typically, and it can take six to 12 weeks to get back to normal activities. We have discharged over 90 per cent of our patients on the day following surgery. So clearly patients get out of hospital much quicker,” he explained. Murphy added that the hospital is planning to expand the robotic program beyond prostate cancer. “Already at Peter Mac we've been using the robot to operate on kidney cancer patients and patients with cancer of the rectum…In the next six to 12 months, we'll also be expanding it to other specialties, such as gynecology, abdominal surgery, head and neck surgery and thoracic surgery,” he said.
For this type of surgery a surgeon guides the $3 million robot device through complex keyhole procedures, which are less invasive than conventional methods, allowing the patient to recover faster. The da Vinci S HD surgical system was first used last year and has now operated on 39 cancer patients. Of those, 31 had prostate cancer, five had kidney cancer and three had rectal cancer.