Robot performs hysterectomy on South Bend woman

A South Bend woman spent all of 2011 battling breast cancer, a mastectomy, chemotherapy and two follow-up surgeries. You can learn more about Monica Hoban in the first part of our story, by clicking here.

Just before Christmas she was back in surgery again, but, this time, it was preventative. Hoban wanted to make sure the estrogen factor that led to her breast cancer did not spread to her female organs, but she did not want to face another major surgery.

So her doctor offered her a laparoscopic robotic hysterectomy, and she invited Maureen and Chief Photographer Don Schoenfeld to follow along.

If you watch the video, be warned that it is footage of surgery and it may be too graphic for some

“The biopsy showed that I had three tumors, four different kinds of cancers, so I had to have a mastectomy,” explains Monica Hoban.

That was a year ago, and since that time the 50-year-old has been through chemo and two more major surgeries.

So after kisses from her sister and her husband, Hoban is off for her fourth surgery of the year.

But this one is different.

Since one form of her breast cancer was estrogen-fed, Hoban does not want to take a chance on ovarian or uterine cancer. So Hoban went to Memorial Hospital, where surgeon Dr. Michael Method, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.S., F.A.C.O.G will perform a laparoscopic hysterectomy.

After prepping Hoban and inflating her abdomen with gas, Dr. Method makes a pencil-sized incision that will allow him to put a camera through a tube-like instrument called a port.

“Now we have an idea of where we are so we can look around,” explains Dr. Method. “So just looking at adhesions or anything that would keep me from damaging anything while I put the ports in.”

With the camera in place, Dr. Method marks Hoban for four more tiny holes he will use to insert tiny instruments.

“The most important part about this port placement is making sure you have enough room for the arms to work,” says Dr. Method, demonstrating how the robot arms move like human arms.

He explains how the uniquely designed instruments minimize risk.

“This is ergonomically designed so you can actually take the fibers and instead of cutting anything you will actually split the fibers and rotate it so it will just close itself when it comes out,” he says.

After just fifteen minutes getting the camera and ports for the tiny instruments in place, it’s time to bring the octopus-like robot named DaVinci over – and Dr. Method takes his place across the room.

The technology was actually developed so doctors on Earth could operate on astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

If you play video games, the process may seem familiar.

“I do all my surgery with my fingers, my thumb and my fingers,” explains Dr. Method. “My index finger actually used to reset, or it’s almost like a clutch.”

The robot’s arms move tiny, tweezer-like instruments, and Dr. Method can see everything on a screen with five-times magnification.

In roughly a half-hour, Dr. Method and DaVinci do their cutting and cauterizing. With everything separated, DaVinci will pull Hoban’s uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes and ovaries through the vagina.

Dr. Method will also use the robot to suture and Hoban’s surgery is over. The ports are taken out and the holes left behind are closed with a few stitches.

“This was a very nice case, she should do wonderful afterwards, she really should,” says Dr. Method.

Hoban is wheeled out and goes home the next day.

Maureen McFadden talked to her just ten days later. She was with her husband Maury and their four kids, getting ready for the new year – cancer-free.

“I’ve had three major surgeries in twelve months and I had a major surgery ten dyas before this and I would say this one was a piece of cake after the other ones,” says Hoban.

With a clean bill of health for 2012, the Hobans plan to take a family trip and full advantage of the new year.

“It’s a new me, and I’m going to take charge,” she says.

Dr. Method is using this less invasive surgery routinely for his patients with cervical and uterine cancer.

He says it’s not only good for patients and their quality of life, but it is also more cost-effective. It is also typically covered by insurance.

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