A new way to treat thyroid cancer using robots

CLEVELAND - Thyroid cancer is on the rise, but a new and high-tech procedure using robots is not only getting rid of the cancer, it's virtually scar-free.

Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic said thyroid cancer increased in the US 173 percent from 2002 to 2012. While it's highly treatable if caught early, some experts said the old days of getting rid of the thyroid by cutting through the neck are gone.

The surgery that left patients with a huge scar on their neck for the rest of their life doesn't exist anymore.

Dr. Eren Berber from the Cleveland Clinic said "thyroid surgery has been done with a neck incision for almost a century. What the robotic technology enables us to do is give us a very stable platform and a 3-dimensional view."

The robot is called the da Vinci and the Cleveland Clinic has been using it for about three years.

Cleveland Clinic's Thyroid Center is the only center in Ohio, and among a handful nationwide, offering robotic surgery for this condition.

The Cleveland Clinic surgeons get help from a system that uses four thin robotic "arms" inserted into strategically placed incisions in the armpit of the patient.

Using hand and foot controls, the surgeon can operate the robotic system while sitting down at a console unit.

Thanks to the system's 3-D, high-definition view of the surgical area, it simulates the open surgical environment without the physical trauma of large incisions.

The da Vinci robot also improves surgical precision, potentially reducing blood loss. That is a common fear among patients.

Patricia Emrich is a thyroid cancer survivor thanks to the da Vinci procedure. Patricia said her doctor's suspected something wasn't right with her thyroid after she had already gone through breast cancer some years before. They took a biopsy and it proved their suspicions were right. Patricia had another cancer, this time, thyroid.

"My first thought was oh..scar from here to here. They came to me and said you look like a perfect candidate for the new robotic thyroidectomy. I said, I will take it!"

This is such a high-tech system, as the surgeon is directing the da Vinci, it actually mimics the surgeon's wrist movements as if the surgeon were conducting the surgery themselves.

What is so exciting in this surgery, too, is the robot can remain steady at all times making it much easier for the surgeon to get to hard to reach areas. With the surgeon in full control of the robotic arms, there is no chance of random movement during the entire operation.

That is what made Patricia feel very comfortable about the surgery, too. Patricia said, "I feel it's very precise, this is the new good thing about robotic surgery."

Patricia hopes anyone who is going through what she did will see if they are a candidate for the surgery because of the benefits it has brought to her. It was a quick surgery with a quick recovery and it saves lives.

If you would like more information about this procedure, you can follow this link .

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