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Prostate Cancer: Radical Prostatectomy

Radical prostatectomy is an operation to remove the prostate gland and tissues surrounding it. This usually includes the seminal vesicles and some nearby lymph nodes. Radical prostatectomy can cure prostate cancer in men whose cancer is limited to the prostate.

Who Should Undergo Radical Prostatectomy?

Men younger than age 75 with limited prostate cancer who are expected to live at least 10 more years tend to get the most benefit from radical prostatectomy.

Before performing radical prostatectomy, doctors first try to establish that the prostate cancer has not spread beyond the prostate. The statistical risk of spread can be determined from tables comparing the results of a biopsy and PSA levels. Further testing for spread, if needed, can include CT scans, bone scans, MRI scans, and ultrasound.

If it appears that the prostate cancer has not spread, a surgeon (urologist) may first offer other options besides surgery. These can include radiation therapy, hormone therapy, or simply observing the prostate cancer over time, since many prostate cancers grow slowly.

Types of Radical Prostatectomy

Radical Prostatectomy

The prostate gland lies just under the bladder, in front of the rectum. Surgeons choose from two different approaches to reach and remove the prostate during a radical prostatectomy. One is a traditional approach known as open prostatectomy. The other, more recent approach is minimally invasive. There are two minimally invasive procedures used in radical prostatectomy: laparoscopic prostatectomy and robot-assisted laparoscopic prostatectomy.

Open prostatectomy

In this traditional method of radical prostatectomy, the surgeon makes a vertical 8- to 10-inch incision below the belly button. Radical prostatectomy is performed through this incision. In rare cases, the incision is made in the perineum, the space between the scrotum and anus.

Laparoscopic prostatectomy

In laparoscopic prostatectomy, surgeons make several small incisions across the belly. Surgical tools and a camera are inserted through the incisions, and radical prostatectomy is performed from outside the body. The surgeon views the entire operation on a video screen.

Robot-assisted laparoscopic prostatectomy

Small incisions are made in the belly, as in regular laparoscopic prostatectomy. A surgeon controls an advanced robotic system of surgical tools from outside the body. A high-tech interface lets the surgeon use natural wrist movements and a 3-D screen during radical prostatectomy.

Open Radical Prostatectomy vs. Minimally Invasive Radical Prostatectomy

In 2003, only 9.2% of radical prostatectomies were done using a minimally invasive procedure. By 2007, that number had jumped to 43.2%. In 2009, researchers in Boston reported on a study that compared outcomes, benefits, and complications of open surgery vs. minimally invasive surgery:

  • No difference was found in deaths or in the need for additional cancer therapy between the two approaches.
  • The median hospital stay was two days for minimally invasive surgery and three days for open surgery.
  • 2.7% of men having laparoscopic surgery required a blood transfusion compared with 20.8% of men having open surgery.
  • There was more anastomotic stricture -- narrowing of the suture where internal body parts are rejoined -- for open surgery (14%) than for minimally invasive surgery (5.8%).
  • There were fewer respiratory complications with minimally invasive surgery (4.3%) than with open surgery (6.6%).
  • There were lower rates of incontinence and erectile dysfunction with open surgery. The overall rate was 4.7% for laparoscopic surgery and 2.1% for open surgery.

 

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