Sending Kidney Cancer into Retirement: Robotic-Assisted Surgery Saves Bert’s Life

Organization: Service: Story Topics:
Robotic Assisted Surgery, Cancer
Bert Schipper

Bert Schipper had specific plans for his golden years: move to Arizona, enjoy his boat on Lake Havasu and explore the Pacific Southwest in his four-wheel drive vehicle. Instead, the 58-year-old Lake Forest resident began his retirement with a slew of doctors’ visits as he suffered through a year of constant pain. It took a skilled specialist to diagnose and treat his kidney cancer and get him back on the road to his dream retirement.

“The worst part wasn’t the stomach pain,” says Bert. “It was the not knowing.”

HARD TO DETECT

According to the American Cancer Society, kidney cancer is among the ten most common cancers for men and women. Shaped like beans, the kidneys are located in the upper back wall of the abdomen, and protected by the lower rib cage. Because of their location, tumors are not seen or felt during routine physical exams. Often, kidney cancer is discovered during physician visits for other issues such as gallbladder problems, back or abdominal pain, or blood in the urine.

When kidney cancer is diagnosed early, the survival and remission rates are very high, but left undetected, tumors can grow dangerously large and affect other parts of the body. Traditionally, the only treatment for kidney tumors was to remove part, or all, of the affected kidney.

Bert’s stomach pain alerted physicians to diagnose his kidney cancer while the tumor was still relatively small, and in its early stage. His gastroenterologist referred him to an experienced urologist and robotic-assisted surgeon, Moses Kim, M.D., Ph.D. Using the state-of-the-art da Vinci robot, Dr. Kim removed the tumor with great precision, sparing Bert’s kidney.

“Robotic-assisted technology in the operating room has allowed for less pain, less scarring and faster recovery times for patients,” says Dr. Kim, who has performed more than 100 of these surgeries. “A procedure that once required five-to-seven nights in the hospital and six-to-eight weeks for recovery has been reduced to a two-night stay and a two- or three-week recovery.”

BACK ON TRACK

The morning following his procedure, Bert felt so good that he was packed and ready to go home even before the nurse’s visit. Today, his two tiny incisions have healed, and he’s living cancer-free. He’s resumed his daily walks, and is looking forward to his big move to Arizona.

NEXT GENERATION ROBOTIC-ASSISTED TECHNOLOGY

Saddleback Memorial is committed to being at the forefront of technology and providing patients with the best care and outcomes. With highly skilled surgeons trained in a number of minimally invasive robotic-assisted surgical procedures, we recently expanded our surgical capabilities with the addition of the new da Vinci Xi® Surgical System offering the newest and most advanced in robotic-assisted options to our patients. With the addition of the da Vinci Xi, surgeons are able to use a robotic-assisted approach in new ways and for more complex procedures, resulting in more patients benefiting from this breakthrough technology, which offers:

  • Less post-operative pain
  • Reduced trauma to the body
  • Less scarring
  • Shorter hospital stays
  • Reduced blood loss and need for transfusions
  • Quicker recovery and return to normal activities

Procedures performed with the robotic surgical system encompass a range of surgical specialties including gynecology, urology, thoracic surgery and gastroenterology/general surgery.  Saddleback Memorial has the added distinction of being designated as the only gynecologic Robotic Training Epicenter in Orange County and one of only 23 such Epicenters in the nation.

For more information on robotic-assisted surgery or for a referral to an expert surgeon, call 1-800-MEMORIAL (1-800-636-6742) or visit memorialcare.org/davinci.