Surgical Oncology

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Robot-Assisted Surgery

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA), in partnership with University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC), is home to one of the most comprehensive and technologically advanced robot-assisted surgery programs in the Puget Sound region. UWMC brought robot-assisted surgery to this region and is the leading regional center where other surgeons come to train. Our surgeons have performed minimally invasive robot-assisted surgical procedures—which result in less pain and blood loss, reduced infection rates, shorter hospital stays, and faster recovery times than traditional open surgeries—for more than a decade.

Specialized Robotic Equipment

Surgeons at UWMC use the da Vinci Surgical System for robot-assisted surgeries. With the da Vinci robot, the surgeon sits at a console near the patient and uses joysticks and foot pedals to control three robotic arms. One robotic arm holds a camera, while two others hold surgical instruments. This system gives the surgeon a true three-dimensional view; allows the surgeon to perform very precise, complex motions; and helps prevent surgeon fatigue. UWMC has two da Vinci robots, each with dual consoles, which allow two surgeons to operate together.

Examples of Robot-Assisted Surgery

Minimally invasive robot-assisted surgery can be used to treat a wide range of cancers, including bladder, colorectal, endometrial, kidney, liver, lung, ovarian, pancreatic, penile, prostate, throat, thyroid, and tongue cancers. Here are examples of robot-assisted procedures our surgeons perform for cancer.

Robot-Assisted Hysterectomy for Endometrial or Uterine Cancer

Through tiny, one- to two-centimeter incisions, UW Medicine surgeons can use the da Vinci system to remove the uterus with great precision and control, minimizing a patient’s pain as well as the risks associated with large incisions, such as increased infection risk and longer recovery time.

Robot-Assisted Partial and Radical Nephrectomies for Renal Cell Carcinoma

With the da Vinci robot, UW Medicine surgeons can remove part or all of a kidney through small incisions, depending on where the cancer is and how much of the organ needs to be removed. The robot supports more precise operations with the added patient benefits of having a shorter hospital stay, losing less blood, and recovering more quickly.

Robot-Assisted Surgery for Liver, Bile Duct, and Pancreatic Cancer

UW Medicine surgeons have led the way with robot-assisted surgery, performing the first robot-assisted hepatectomy (liver removal) and robot-assisted bile duct operations in the Pacific Northwest as well as the state’s first robot-assisted Whipple procedure for pancreatic cancer.

Robot-Assisted Prostatectomy for Prostate Cancer

Surgeons use laparoscopic prostatectomy to remove prostate glands through several small incisions. UW Medicine surgeons have years of experience performing this operation using the da Vinci Surgical System.

Transoral Endoscopic Robot-Assisted Surgery for Throat Cancer

For people with certain throat cancers, transoral endoscopic surgery is a much less invasive treatment than open surgery. With the help of a surgical camera and microscope that are passed through the mouth, the surgeon can use the robot to direct surgical tools to the tumor location, avoiding the need for disfiguring surgery and tracheotomy. This approach may also minimize or eliminate the need for chemotherapy and radiation and the side effects that may come with those treatments.

Transaxillary Robot-Assisted Hemithyroidectomy for Thyroid Cancer

In this procedure, surgeons use the da Vinci robot to remove half of the thyroid by creating an incision in the underarm (axilla) area. The scar is hidden in the underarm rather than visible on the neck, and with good care an underarm incision will heal faster than a neck incision.