Chicago News Anchor Goes to Atlanta for His Surgery
Advances in treating prostate cancer can remove the cancer and prevent the lifestyle changing side effects that have plagued men for years. The possible side effects can include loss of bladder control and loss of sexual function but those days are over according to WGN’s own Robert Jordan. He tells us his personal story of surviving prostate cancer but be warned there are a few pictures of the actual surgery, Bob.
Robert Jordan: Well Jackie when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year I immediately felt crushed thinking my life as I knew it was over. But I was very wrong. In Atlanta a surgeon operating a robot performed a relatively new procedure that improved my life. Tonight we look at the Di Vinci Robotic Radical Prostatectomy. For this story I went back to Atlanta to follow another patient having the same procedure that I had had.
Dr. Scott Miller: So are you ready?
Alex Leighton: I’m ready
Dr. Scott Miller: Any questions?
Alex Leighton: Nah, Just you know, Go for it!
Dr. Scott Miller: We’re going to take really good care of you
Alex Leighton: I’m sure you will.
Robert Jordan: Urologist Dr. Scott Miller and his patient Alex Leighton are headed to surgery, Miller the same doctor I had is about to remove Alex’s cancerous prostate gland but instead of opening him up with a long incision running from the naval to the pubic bone Dr. Miller will make five dime-sized holes in Alex’s abdomen where he will insert and guide the robot arms to remove the prostate gland.
Dr. Scott Miller: You’ll be ready to go tomorrow, you’ll be ready to go.
Robert Jordan: That’s right! Alex will go home the next day. Just as I did, we’ll show you Alex leaving later, but first Alex has a date with the robot. A three armed computer driven machine that is actually controlled and manipulated by Dr. Miller after he makes the five tiny holes in Alex’s abdomen.
Dr. Scott Miller: Robot in, a little towards me.
Robert Jordan: Covered in sterilized plastic, the arms are inserted into long plastic tubes which allow different hands to be attached to the arms as needed. Scissors, retractors, clamps and suture needles. And, when Miller moves his hands an inch, the computer reduces his movements inside the body to centimeters.
Dr. Scott Miller: These are the view finders. I put my head into this space. And were then able to see inside the body in two separate cameras giving us a stereo view of the inside of the body.
Robert Jordan: Plus, what he sees is enlarges, magnified, ten times bigger than normal. To him, scissors look like hedge clippers, but they are the size of a fingernail.
Dr. Scott Miller: The 3D visualization is incredible. Its like a little one of me being inside the body
Robert Jordan: And because the nerves and blood vessels that control bladder function and erections appear so large, Miller can clearly see how to avoid them so that men can resume their role lifestyles.
Dr. Scott Miller: And within weeks often we’ll have a return of normal or close to normal sexual and urinary function.
Robert Jordan: As you can see from the camera, inside the body, there is hardly any bleeding. Years ago, men having a prostatectomy would routinely have to receive blood transfusion. But, with the Da Vinci robot and the hands of a skilled surgeon blood loss is minimal. Almost an hour later, the prostate is clearly dissected from the bladder. Miller then inspects the gland to make sure he has gotten all of the cancer the way he wanted to.
Dr. Scott Miller: I take a peek at it to make sure I have extra tissue, which I do. Make sure our margin looks clean, we actually see fibers on that. And we bag it.
Robert Jordan: Sealed in a plastic baggy the prostate will be removed through one of the tiny holes in the abdomen and sent to the lab for study to make sure the cancer was all inside the gland and had not begun to spread outside to other organs. And while the untrained eye might think this is a lot of blood, it is not. Remember the field is magnified.
Dr. Scott Miller: We just don’t worry about bleeds in during these cases, because we know we don’t loose that much blood.
Robert Jordan: Miller spends the remaining time carefully reconnecting Alex’s urethra to the bladder with a catheter inside. He will have that in for five to six days. Decades ago, the catheter was left in for almost two weeks. And when Miller prepares to close the tiny holes no sutures just glue, that’s right the holes are so small that they are glued closed.
Robert Jordan: Its been a little over three hours and the patient is now in the recovery ward. It was a relatively bloodless operation. And the critical nerves were spared which means the patient should be returning to a near normal lifestyle within a matter of weeks.
Robert Jordan: How are you feeling?
Alex Leighton: Not bad, actually pretty good.
Robert Jordan: This is Alex the next morning. Up walking around in preparing to leave the hospital. A true miracle.
Alex Leighton: I’m a fast healer, if I had my way, I’d go back to work.
Robert Jordan: No, you know you’re going to have to slow yourself down. That’s going to be the main thing because you’re going to want to do more. You feel so good. And they tell you take your time, take your time. Listen to your body.
Robert Jordan: A short time later as Alex leaves Atlanta’s Northside Hospital, the entire ordeal seems like a blur.
Alex Leighton: Just, it’s hard to believe that we were here what, 23-24 hours?
Robert Jordan: Dr Miller says that in Alex’s case, just as in mind he was able to get all of the cancer and because we were tested often we caught it early.
Dr. Scott Miller: Early detection is the key to the treatment of prostate cancer if you’re going to be successful.
Robert Jordan: And Miller urges his patients to ask questions and do their research because it’s your body and you’re, like, at stake.
Dr. Scott Miller: I tell every patient, more importantly, the decision they make they should feel comfortable with that decision.
Robert Jordan: So ask questions?
Dr. Scott Miller: Ask questions.
Robert Jordan: And, of course, that is key. I’ve written more about my battle against prostate cancer in today’s edition of The Chicago’s Tribune Magazine. It’s an article in entitled “The Ultimate Deadline”.