When doctors discovered pre-cancerous cells in her uterus late last year, there were plenty of reasons for Janece Martin to be concerned.
As a 60-year-old woman, how quickly could she recover from the required hysterectomy?
How much pain would she feel?
But most of all, she worried that doctors might discover a hidden cancer while removing her uterus.
“I was very concerned. Even though we had done a biopsy, my doctor wasn’t totally convinced that when they did surgery they wouldn’t find cancer,” said Martin, of Columbia.
Martin’s hysterectomy was scheduled for April 4 at Boone Hospital Center. As the date approached, Martin’s primary gynecologist decided her case was a good fit for minimally invasive surgery using Boone Hospital’s da Vinci robot and referred her to Jennifer Roelands, MD.
“When possible, I advocate for robotic surgery as recovery is faster, patients require less pain medication and can return to work quicker,” said Dr. Roelands, a board certified gynecologist. “The da Vinci allows me to do a complicated hysterectomy, like Ms. Martin’s, in a less invasive way so she can heal better.”
Martin found this to be true. After waking up following her surgery, she learned doctors had discovered no cancer, which was a great relief.
She was also amazed that she felt no pain.
“It didn’t hurt, and I thought, well, that’s odd,” she said. “That was nowhere near what I expected.”
Just hours after the surgery, she was up and walking pain-free. She was released from the hospital the next morning without any pain medication.
“Not one pain pill did I take,” she said. “It was just totally amazing.”
The recovery was so easy Martin later teased her primary gynecologist, saying, “I don’t think you all did surgery.” He replied, “Oh yes we did; I watched the whole thing.”
Before the surgery, Martin’s husband had taken off 10 days from work to help care for her throughout her recovery. But the tables turned during her quick recovery when he strained his back a few days after her surgery.
“I actually drove him to the ER and had to watch over him,” she said, with a laugh.
Martin praised Dr. Roelands for the surgical skill and technological expertise she brings to mid-Missouri.
“She is a tremendous asset to Boone Hospital and the community,” she said.
Minimally Invasive Option
Boone Hospital has offered da Vinci surgical procedures since 2008.
It’s a robotic system where a surgeon uses hand and foot controls to maneuver tiny surgical instruments with minute precision.
A special camera provides the surgeon with clear 3D footage direct from the surgery site.
The system allows trained physicians to perform surgeries with slender robotic arms rather than their own hands, making it possible to have much smaller surgical openings.
Research shows that compared to traditional surgery, robotic procedures are less painful, take less time to complete, leave much smaller scars and allow patients to leave the hospital sooner and recover faster.
Boone Hospital is fortunate to have two physicians who are masters at using robotics for women’s health issues: Dr. Roelands and Sara Crowder, MD.
Dr. Roelands learned robotic surgery at Duke University. She has been using this technology since 2005 and trains other physicians around the country how to perform procedures. She helped start the da Vinci program at Boone Hospital in 2008.
She has completed more than 80 robotic cases and uses the technology not just for hysterectomy but for a variety of other procedures as well, including removal of fibroids, endometriosis and other complex gynecological cases.
“I am happy there is a minimally invasive option like the da Vinci in mid-Missouri, and that I am able to provide that service to my patients,” Dr. Roelands said.
Dr. Crowder is the only board certified gynecologic oncologist in mid-Missouri. After training to do robotic surgery, she began using the technology for complex cases and patients requiring surgery for cancers. She said shenow performs more robotic surgery on a monthly basis than any other surgeon in Missouri.
“Practicing at Boone hospital is a joy,” said Dr. Crowder. “The nursing care, support staff and facility help me in my quest to provide patients with the quality care they deserve.”
Easier Than Expected
When Nellie Jones learned she had endometrial cancer, she said it was a shock.
“It’s a feeling that I wouldn’t put on anybody,” she said.
Jones, 72, of Huntsville, is the matriarch of a close family. Instead of sharing her cancer diagnosis over the phone, she wanted to share the news with her family face to face.
“I called them over to the house and told them I had something to talk to them about,” she said. “They were strong; they didn’t let me see them get down about it. They take good care of their momma.”
As physicians studied her case, it was determined that robotic hysterectomy, performed by Dr. Crowder, was the preferred option for Jones.
Until her own surgery was scheduled, Jones said she wasn’t aware the da Vinci robotic system was available in mid-Missouri.
“I heard them talk about it on TV, but I didn’t know we had it here yet,” she said.
Going in to her surgery, Jones said she was a “nervous wreck.” But once it was over, she, too, said her recovery was much easier than expected.
Like Martin, she was able to walk around hours after the surgery and was able to go home the next day. She also needed very little pain medication and was surprised by how small her scars were.
“Before the surgery I was sitting here thinking about all the cuts and scars I was going to have,” she said. “But I just have a two-inch scar and then some other little bitty scars.”
Today, Jones is cancer free. The surgery was successful and did not require any chemotherapy or radiation.
Looking back, Jones said the words that illustrate why robotic surgery is an increasingly preferred option for women.
“I didn’t expect it to be this easy,” she said.