Moffitt Cancer Center’s Robotic Surgery Options Help Improve Patient Outcomes

February 18, 2015

TAMPA, Fla. Two days after Independence Day Richard House did not feel well. At first he thought he ate something that disagreed with him, but when he started feeling spasms in his throat he called his doctor.

House’s esophageal wall had thickened, and further testing revealed a tumor and an esophageal cancer diagnosis.

House immediately sought treatment at Moffitt Cancer Center because they had a dedicated thoracic surgeon who specialized and performed several esophagectomy procedures a year.

The robotic surgery is an extensive eight-hour procedure, but House says his he placed his full trust in his surgeon, Jacques Fontaine, M.D., who oversaw the robotic surgery from start to finish.

“Moffitt gave me the best chance for a quick recovery. I was looking for a doctor who was proficient in the specific kind of surgery I needed. While I was at Moffitt, my treatment team made me feel like I was their only patient,” said House.

Moffitt’s five-year survival rate for esophageal patients is 37.9%, which far outpaces the national average of 17.8%.

“At Moffitt, our surgical oncologists perform robotic surgery for cancer on a routine basis. Our treatment team approaches each case focused on the patient’s individual needs. Oncologists, radiologists and surgeons work together to do everything possible to help our patients return home, where they can begin their recovery more quickly,” said Mokenge Malafa, M.D., chair of Moffitt’s Gastrointestinal Oncology Program.

Jean Chase came to Moffitt when pain started interfering with her quality of life.

After Chase’s back pain became unbearable she called an ambulance and was taken to the hospital where they diagnosed her with pancreatitis. Knowing pancreatitis did not run in her family, Chase and her specialist decided to pursue an endoscopic pancreatic biopsy. After the biopsy results came back suspicious, Chase decided a surgical intervention at Moffitt was her best option.

Chase lives alone in her Sarasota home and quick recovery was important to her. Moffitt has integrated minimally invasive and robotic-assisted surgery as an alternative to traditional surgery. Chase decided to undergo a da Vinci® minimally invasive robotic surgery procedure to remove her suspicious cells.

“When I was faced with the possibility of extensive surgery, I wanted to be sure I gave myself the best chance possible while having the least invasive treatment,” explained Chase. “I am unique and wanted a treatment that fit my lifestyle.”

The Moffitt Institute for Robotic Cancer Surgery is one of a select few multispecialty robotic programs in the U.S. and the largest in the Southeast. The highly specialized surgical team offers a variety of gastrointestinal cancer treatment options including the Whipple procedure, transanal endoscopic microsurgery and robotic esophageal surgery, among others.

Robotic surgery allows patients to return home from the hospital more quickly, offers shorter recovery time and helps to decrease pain and minimize blood loss. For pancreatic cancer cases like Chase’s, Moffitt is out-performing the national average for outcomes for patients, more than doubling the five-year survival rate.

Appointments can be made to discuss the pros and cons of robotic surgery. To schedule an appointment, call 1-888-MOFFITT (1-888-663-3488) or visit the Moffitt Institute for Robotic Cancer Surgery.

About Moffitt Cancer Center
Located in Tampa, Moffitt is one of only 41 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, a distinction that recognizes Moffitt’s excellence in research, its contributions to clinical trials, prevention and cancer control. Moffitt is the top-ranked cancer hospital in the Southeast and has been listed in U.S. News & World Report as one of the “Best Hospitals” for cancer care since 1999. With more than 4,500 employees, Moffitt has an economic impact in Florida of nearly $1.6 billion. For more information, visit, and follow the Moffitt momentum on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.