Minimally Invasive Surgery for Cancer
Dr. Diljeet Singh is director of the Gynecologic Oncology Program and director of the Integrative Oncology and Cancer Prevention Program at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Question: Is minimally invasive surgery a better treatment option for cancer patients than open surgery?
Answer: Because every cancer patient is unique, the best treatment options depend on many factors, including the patient's type of cancer and overall health. In many cases, advancements in minimally invasive surgery (MIS) have provided new and effective approaches that should be considered when determining the best plan of care.
If MIS is recommended, the patient can experience many benefits. MIS may have a lower risk of infection, which may be helpful to cancer patients whose immunity is compromised due to their illness and related treatments. MIS approaches have also been associated with faster recovery and healing, shorter hospital stays, and less bleeding. Faster recovery times allow patients with other planned treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy to begin them sooner.
Currently, there are several available forms of minimally invasive procedures, such as those using a traditional or robotic-assisted laparoscope, endoscope, laser or ultrasound. For example, laparoscopic approaches have proven very effective for cancers affecting the uterus, liver, pancreas and gall bladder. Endoscopic procedures may be useful in diagnosing and treating certain gastrointestinal cancers, and video-guided minimally invasive options can help surgeons reach the lungs and esophagus by going through the space between the ribs.
While recent minimally invasive surgical advancements have had a positive impact on how cancer is treated, open surgeries remain an extremely effective option for many patients. A patient's clinical team will evaluate and discuss the best treatment plan given the type of cancer, size of the tumor, the patient's current health status and goals of care, to determine if a minimally invasive option or an open surgery is the recommended course of action.