Declan Cahill in surgery

Treating prostate cancer with robotic surgery

Prostate cancer is the most common type of male cancer in the world. Now, thanks to new technology and developments in research, we are finding better and more efficient ways of treating it than ever before.

Rise of the machines 

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK. It is estimated that 1 in 6 men in the UK will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.

Robotic surgery is now routinely used at The Royal Marsden for prostate cancers that were previously treated with open surgery. The technique is regularly used for men with prostate cancer who require a radical prostatectomy. In addition, our surgeons can use the robots to perform salvage operations on patients with recurrent cancer, avoiding or delaying the need for chemotherapy.

Robotic arms in position for surgery

The introduction of the ground-breaking da Vinci S machine in 2007 and the latest da Vinci Xi model in 2015, thanks to supporters of the Charity, has greatly improved outcomes for patients. Compared with open surgery, robotic surgery means faster recovery times and less scarring. With this technology, a surgeon uses a control console to manoeuvre the da Vinci’s robotic arms, which cut and manipulate tissue in much the same way a surgeon would when carrying out open surgery. However, the system means that complex procedures can be performed using minimally invasive keyhole surgery.

Training the next generation

Surgeons performing robotically assisted surgery require specialised training. But thanks to the dual console of the da Vinci Xi – which allows consultants to supervise trainees during live surgery, at no risk to the patient – The Royal Marsden is training future robotic surgeons through the UK’s first cross-speciality robotic fellowship programme. This training programme has been funded through supporters of the charity including the ‘Father and Son Day’ campaign. So far, over five years three fellows have completed their training and moved on to other Trusts to share their knowledge and experience.

Declan Cahill

What does this mean for patients?

Mr Declan Cahill, Consultant Urological Surgeon, is one of the highest volume radical prostatectomy surgeons in the country. He explains what the benefits are of using the da Vinci robot to carry out surgical procedures:

The da Vinci Xi is the latest robotic surgery platform. The vision provided by robotic surgery is amazing. If we can see better, we can be more precise and operate better. We can manipulate the robotic arms to make microscopic incisions with far greater accuracy and control compared with open surgery or standard laparoscopy. For our patients, this means they lose less blood, experience less pain, recover quicker and leave hospital sooner.

The combination of the brightly illuminated, high-definition magnified image and instrument dexterity facilitates better-quality surgery, and allows for more ambitious and inventive procedures.

By investing in the latest in equipment, we can, not only improve the lives of the patients treated at the Royal Marsden, but also train future surgeons to improve the lives of those affected by cancer around the UK.

For our patients, this means they lose less blood, experience less pain, recover quicker and leave hospital sooner.

Declan Cahill - Consultant Urological Surgeon