By Sara Bondell
Anita Lynch is sitting up in her hospital bed, covers thrown to the side. Calls are continuously coming in from friends and family who want to know how she’s feeling.
“I expected the pain to be more intense,” she tells them. “It’s not too bad.”
It’s almost hard to tell that less than 24 hours ago, Lynch had surgery to remove cancer in her colon.
Lynch’s surgery was done laparoscopically, a type of minimally invasive surgery where operations are performed through small incisions. It could be one of the reasons Lynch feels less pain.
“Minimally invasive surgery allows patients to recover quicker than open surgery,” said Lynch’s colorectal surgeon, Dr. Julian Sanchez. “They feel less pain, can typically leave the hospital faster and return to work sooner.”
Minimally invasive surgery also includes robotic surgery. Moffitt has 13 surgeons who use the robotic platform, including colorectal surgeon Dr. Seth Felder. On average, Felder’s patients who undergo an open colon surgery stay in the hospital six days, compared to four days for a laparoscopic procedure and 3.4 days for robotic surgery.
While the use of minimally invasive surgery has increased nationally over the years, data show a large number of colorectal surgeries done in the Tampa Bay area are still being performed open.
Felder says this could be the result of the cost and time it takes to train colorectal surgeons in minimally invasive techniques or for a hospital to invest in the necessary equipment. However, he says, that is not the case at Moffitt.
“At Moffitt, we are colon and rectal fellowship specialist trained surgeons and the institution supports and invests in minimally invasive technologies, including the robotics program,” said Felder. “Our surgeons are beyond the learning curve other hospitals may be experiencing.”
While minimally invasive surgery may be the best option for colorectal cancer patients like Lynch, there are many cases where open surgery is the better approach. Minimally invasive surgery cannot be done if there is a cancer recurrence, and factors like tumor size and patient health can influence a surgeon’s decision to perform open surgery.
Sanchez says the important thing to remember is that even though minimally invasive surgery is better for a patient in terms of recovery, there is no difference in cancer outcomes compared to open surgery.