At 65-years-old Marlene was enjoying being a wife, mother, grandmother and newly retired resident of Huntington Beach. However, after noticing irregular spotting, she became understandably concerned. Random bleeding after menopause, the stage marking the end of a woman's reproductive years, can indicate a serious condition. During an annual checkup, Marlene relayed this new, problematic sign to her primary care physician.

Discovering with Diagnostics

Because women are at far greater risk for uterine cancer if they have started menopause —about 75 percent of uterine cancer is found in postmenopausal women — an ultrasound was immediately performed. The ultrasound found that Marlene had a thickened uterine wall, and she was referred to Long Beach Medical Center for an endometrial biopsy. Unfortunately, just a few days later, the biopsy results confirmed that there was, in fact, something terribly wrong: Marlene had uterine cancer.

Once diagnosed, Marlene and her husband, Gary, made the decision as a family to move forward with Marlene’s cancer recovery by having a hysterectomy, an oophorectomy — the removal of the ovaries — and a salpingectomy — the removal of the fallopian tubes. The surgeries were completed all at once by Robert E. Bristow, MD, medical director, gynecologic oncology, MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute, Long Beach Medical Center, with the da Vinci® Si Surgical System (da Vinci).

Treating with Robotic Surgery

The da Vinci® Si Surgical System uses robotic computer technology providing breakthrough minimally invasive surgical capabilities that offer greater surgical benefits. Through robotic-assisted visualization, dexterity, precision and control, a surgeon can perform a wide array of procedures through small 1 cm incisions. During an operation, the surgeon sits at a console in the surgical suite and monitors the video screens to direct the robotic arms to perform the surgery. The da Vinci seamlessly and directly translates the surgeon’s natural hand, wrist and finger movements from controls at the console to the surgical instruments inside the patient.

Although the prospect of undergoing robotic assisted cancer surgery seemed overwhelming to the couple, and “finding out that I had cancer was quite a shock,” Marlene and Gary knew that she “would be getting the latest and greatest treatment at Long Beach Medical Center. That gave us our peace of mind,” says Marlene.

Along with the state-of-the-art surgical capabilities and physician specialty at Long Beach Medical Center, using the da Vinci for patients like Marlene “allows us to do the same operation as we would with open surgery using a minimally invasive approach. A standard hysterectomy has a 12-18 inch incision, but we made an 8 – 10 mm incision for Marlene with the da Vinci,” says Dr. Bristow.

At Long Beach Medical Center gynecologic surgeons, including Dr. Bristow, specialize in minimally invasive robotic assisted surgery and robotic surgical techniques with the da Vinci operating suite. Having access to surgeons with advanced technical knowledge means patients can rest assured knowing they’re in good hands with those who specialize in excellent outcomes, experience and dedication.

Benefiting from Robotic Surgery

Less scaring, little pain and a faster recovery were just a few of the benefits Marlene and her family appreciated about having robotic surgery, “She was up almost immediately. The next morning, we brought her home and she was going up and down the stairs,” says Gary. Marlene, whose only pain medication was Motrin, felt “exceptionally pleased with how smoothly the robotic surgery went and how great I felt just hours after surgery. In less than two weeks I was back to normal — I was really amazed at how well I felt afterwards!”

She and her husband are back to their “very active lifestyle. We enjoy walking on the beach and riding our beach cruisers,” says Marlene. But the most important lesson she has learned from an unnerving cancer diagnosis? “I truly learned the importance of getting annual checkups and having problems identified early. My spotting was a blessing in disguise.”

Because of the cutting-edge, robotic assisted cancer surgery, specialized Long Beach Medical Center physicians and loving family support, Marlene is now free of cancer… and she intends to stay that way.