Technology Can Make A Difference In Colorectal Cancer Surgery

October 01, 2015
Vincent Obias MD

Colorectal cancer is one of the top three most diagnosed cancers.*

Vincent Obias, MD, FACS, FASCRS, Associate Professor of Surgery and Director of Colon and Rectal Surgery, recommends screenings for adults between ages 50 and 75. People at higher risk
may need to be screened at a younger age or tested more frequently. If cancer is found, he gives patients the advantage of skilled robotic surgical treatment. Here, Dr. Obias answers some basic questions about colorectal cancer.

What causes colorectal cancer?

It can be genetic or happen out of the blue. The National Cancer Institute reports that 75 percent of patients have no evidence of inheriting the disease. Other risk factors range from diet and taking anti-in ammatory drugs, to cigarette smoking and having had polyps (abnormal tissue growths) in the colon.

What’s the latest news in colorectal cancer surgery?

The best news for some time has been the da Vinci® Surgical System. The robot has multiple arms, with the surgeon controlling three instruments and a camera. This lets us perform even deep pelvic dissections easily. Stable camera views allow us to cut cleaner, more precise margins around the cancer and better avoid the nerves. This increased precision can help decrease pain and recovery time for patients.

Does da Vinci provide benefits specifcally for rectal surgery?

Yes. The rectum is essentially the last 20 centimeters of the large colon, making cancer here difficult to remove. If the patient needs radiation or chemotherapy, we often do that  first, then perform surgery. The robot’s articulating wristed instruments let us get into places the human hand has difficulty reaching. It also makes suturing easier because we can better access these very
small spaces.

What should you look for in a hospital if you’re facing colorectal surgery?

Choose a hospital with a high- volume colorectal program. High- volume hospitals usually have more experience and the best outcomes. Our work with the da Vinci Surgical System has given GW Hospital the distinction of being a Robotic Colorectal Epicenter. Doctors from around the country come here to study the techniques we use.

* National Cancer Institute

Individual results may vary. There are risks associated with any surgical procedure. Talk with your doctor about these risks to find out if robotic surgery is right for you.