World Cancer Day 2017, cancer, health, India

A workshop -- Robocon 2017 -- was recently conducted to focus on recent advancements in robotic surgery for treating cancers in womenSome forms of cancers that can be treated by this revolutionary robotic surgery are endometrial cancer and cervical cancer.

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The most benign endometrial cancer, cervical cancer and gynaecological procedures are known as 'minimal access surgery' -- which is completed with one or more small incisions instead of a big one. Robotic surgery is also a minimally invasive tool which aids doctors to carry out surgeries with ease.

"Cancer surgeries have advanced significantly over the last one decade, with tools like robotic-assisted surgery. Robotic platform allows Amrita complex cancer surgeries to be done in a minimally invasive way through millimetre-size openings in the abdomen, compared to cuts of over 10 cm in conventional surgery. Blood loss and tissue damage are much less, leading to faster recovery," said Dr Anupama Rajanbabu of Amrita Hospital.

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Robotic surgery has reduced average patient stay at the hospital to a single day, compared to a week earlier. Sometimes, a patient can go home the same day after surgery. Robotic surgery can treat uterine and cervical cancers as well as select ovarian cancers. "This is an important capability to have in a state like Kerala where the incidence of uterine cancer is increasing rapidly due to urbanisation and lifestyle changes. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer among women after breast cancer," Dr Rajanbabu added.

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According to Dr Walter H Gotlieb of McGill University, medical care, especially cancer treatment, has entered the phase of precision medicine, where personalised treatment is provided rather than 'one size fits all'. "This is revolutionising healthcare, allowing for better screening tools with molecular analysis instead of, say, the pap smear test. Precision medicine also allows for vaccination against cancers, such as HPV vaccination for cancer of the cervix, helping prevent this very prevalent cancer in India. As drugs become more targeted, so does surgery," added Dr Gotlieb, who is also the secretary of International Gynecologic Cancer Society.

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Dr Gotlieb further highlighted that the old paradigm of 'the bigger the scar, the bigger the surgeon' is giving way to a new approach in surgery where precision becomes crucial, removing what is needed, without damaging the surrounding tissues. "Now the motto is 'the smaller the scar, the bigger the surgeon. Chemotherapy is being replaced by molecularly targeted drugs against the cancer cell itself, avoiding most of the toxicity to the body. Surgery too has become much more targeted with robotics, heralding the new era of precision surgery," he said.