A more precise surgery method is now available to those suffering from stomach cancer. Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) has become the first in Southeast Asia to perform the robotic gastrectomy procedure. Stomach cancer is the fifth most common cancer in Singapore, and doctors say that stomach cancer is largely triggered by poor lifestyle choices, such as overeating or eating too much barbequed food. Only a small percentage is caused by genetic factors.
The robotic arms are able to mimic the movement of the hand and the wrist within the abdomen. This allows freer movement and precision. This especially helps lymph node dissection, which is much more difficult to perform in laparoscopic surgery. The portion affected by cancer cells in the abdomen is then removed. The surgery is typically conducted on people with stage 1 and 2 cancer, when the affected area is still relatively small. Trials are underway to see if such a surgery is suitable for later stages of stomach cancer. Dr Jaideepraj Rao, a consultant with the Department of General Surgery at TTSH, said: “In this kind of key hole surgery or robotic surgery, the incisions are extremely small, so the pain is much less and they recover faster. We have high-definition cameras that can zoom in, so really we see the field magnified, every small structure can be identified, so our dissection is very meticulous and there’s less blood loss.”
Currently the robotic gastrectomy method costs more for the patient. However, doctors said the price is likely to drop, as they expect more people to opt for this kind of surgery. This method has also been used in other hospitals in Singapore for prostate and colon cancer.