Prostate Cancer: A Look Inside the Operating Room

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By: Angela Howard
February 28, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - "Dad's prostate cancer came to him, er, he was aware of it starting at about age 58/59, I think. So that' when I decided I better start the screening process," said Joe Norman.

For several years, the retired airline Captain's PSA - or Prostate-specific Antigen - was a 2, so he was in the clear. But in November of 2012, his PSA spiked to 8. A biopsy in early January confirmed the presence of cancerous cells. It's the same cancer that killed his father back in the 1990s.

"Dad passed away almost 20 years ago, and uh, it's still a tough thing to talk about," he said.

Joe had followed in his father's footsteps as a pilot, even flying side by side with him for the late Capitol Airways during Viet Nam. And while they lived the same in many ways, Joe was determined to win his fight with the Big C.

That determination took Joe to the operating room at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. That's where Dr. J. Daniell Rackley, M.D. used a bulky machine known as the DiVinci System to remove his prostate and surrounding seminal vessels. It's a big change from years ago when doctors had to open a patient up. The new system allows the surgery to be done through just a few small incisions.

"It's sort of like a complicated video game and uh, fortunately for me, I like playing video games," said Urologist J. Daniell Rackley, M.D.

The part of the machine that Dr. Rackley uses is still in the operating room, though, so he can always see his patient.

"I don't feel like I ever lose sight of the fact that I'm operating on a person, but, uh, certainly, it's a lot like playing a video game. It's a good comparison," he said.

Nurses and other O.R. staff also stay nearby the patient.

Joe is just one of about 660 people who will undergo surgery with the DiVinci System this year at TMH. Using the less invasive method does take a bit longer than open surgery, but recovery time is much, much less.

"One of the benefits of the DiVinci Procedure is that you're not going to be in a whole lot of pain. I mean, you're going to be up walking down the hall the next day," said Dr. Rackley.

Joe's surgery took just over an hour to complete. He was up moving the next day and back to walking three-plus miles with his wife Rozalind about a week later.

His follow-up check-up showed a clean bill of health, so Joe can get back to living life.

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