Public access to robotic prostatectomy could save lives and change attitudes, doctor says
8th Sept 2017
The success of prostate operations by the first ever robotic surgeon in a NSW public hospital is proof the technology should be expanded, says the doctor who first lobbied for it.
- Older surgery takes several days’ hospital recovery time and a couple of months off work
- With robotic surgery most patients discharged within a day, back at work in under 2 weeks
- Every year more than 3,500 men will die from the disease
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, but the price tag to have the latest minimally invasive surgery is often too high for many Australians.
Mohamed Khadra, head of urology at Nepean Hospital in Sydney, said too often he saw people mortgaging their houses to have a robotic prostatectomy done privately.
Professor Khadra said while the price tag for the technology is hefty, the benefits of the keyhole surgery are well worth it given most patients are discharged from hospital within a day.
“Whereas previously, with big open cuts in the abdomen to access the prostate, it may have taken up to 10 days in hospital and it takes probably six to eight weeks to recover,” he said.
“The misinformation is that most cancer of the prostate, it’s not worth treating and that is not true. There is a subsection of men who have high-grade disease where it will cut their life short unless they are treated.”
There are now three public hospitals in the state that have this machine, which costs around $2 million each.
Professor Khadra said he hopes having more treatment options for men, will encourage men to see a health professional.
“My recommendation to all men between the ages of 50 and 70, and certainly men with a family history, is to go to your GP and help us save your lives.”
Older men reluctant to undergo invasive surgery
One in seven Australian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, and each year more than 3,500 men will die from the disease.
Terry Brannigan, a 60-year-old truck driver from central NSW, was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer after a routine diabetes test detected abnormalities in his blood.
“It was a bit scary, having spoken to my very elderly father-in-law who had prostate cancer and had the operation the old way, and I thought ‘Oh no’,” Mr Brannigan said.
The “old way” Mr Brannigan refers to is surgery that involves a cut in the abdomen to remove the entire prostate gland plus some of the tissue around it, and requires months off work.
Mr Brannigan said a reluctance to screen and treat the prostate region is something he sees amongst many of his friends.
“Working back with the old bushies on dump trucks and stuff like that, they’ve still got that attitude of ‘Oh no, they’re not coming near me’,” he said.
“When you start talking to them and they say of their old mates ‘He died of prostate cancer and he died of prostate cancer’ — it’s just lack of education.”
But thanks to the new technology, Mr Brannigan had a radical prostatectomy using a robot this week at Nepean Hospital in Sydney’s west.
“I certainly wouldn’t have been able to do it in a private hospital because I don’t have private health insurance,” he said.