Lifewatch: Robots help with esophagus cancer surgery

Reported by Claire Hosmann - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

(WECT) - Acid reflux, or heartburn, is a common condition most people find bothersome, but it could be dangerous and a major risk for cancer of the esophagus.

Now robots are being used to help treat patients with the disease.

Bill Dingley noticed a sudden drop in weight and appetite in January and decided to go to the doctor. A scan showed he had a tumor growing in his esophagus, which is the tube that connects the throat and stomach.

After chemo and radiation to shrink the tumor, Bill had surgery.

"You're basically removing the entire esophagus because of the tumor," said surgeon Dr. Mark Dylewski.

Bill only has a visible scar on his neck because Dr. Dylewski used a robot to help with the surgery.

"We would have created three incisions," said Dylewski.  "One incision on the chest cavity, one incision on the abdomen and one incision on the left neck."

Robots are used to perform a variety of operations because they can be done through small holes.

"The robot is like having three or four human hands in the chest or the abdomen, whichever cavity you're operating in, and you can move it just like your own hand," said Dylewski.

"The entire esophagus was removed and the stomach that normally lays on its side more or less was brought up and connected to my throat and then stapled so it won't hold as much," said Bill.

Like patients who have gastric bypass, Bill has to change the way he eats, but he is now cancer free.