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Minimally Invasive Surgery for Cancer: What You Should Know

Minimally Invasive Surgery for Cancer: What You Should Know

Surgery is a cornerstone of treatment for many types and stages of cancer. Surgery may be a stand-alone therapy, or combined with chemotherapy and/or radiation. At Valley Health’s state-of-the-art Cancer Center, the options for advanced, personalized care include minimally invasive surgery -- including robotic, laparoscopic and endoscopic procedures.

What are the benefits? Who’s a good candidate? Here, Valley Health surgical oncologists Patrick L. Wagner, MD, FACS, and Devin C. Flaherty, DO, PhD, FACOS, FACS, discuss this exciting option.

What is minimally invasive surgery?

Dr. Flaherty: Minimally invasive surgery allows us to accomplish the same goals as conventional, open surgery, but with a much smaller incision or group of incisions. At Valley Health, we offer:

1. Robotic surgery using the latest generation surgical robot, the da Vinci® Xi™ Surgical System, where the surgeon at a console in the operating room makes all surgical decisions and controls the surgical tools with great precision while watching the area of the surgery at a stereoscopic high-definition monitor that provides a magnified, three-dimensional view.

2. Laparoscopic surgery, when the surgeon at the operating table inserts long, thin tubes and a specialized camera called a laparoscope through the incision and then performs the procedure using specialized instruments inserted through the tubes.

3. Endoscopy, in which the physician uses a camera with lights and specialized, miniaturized instruments to examine and perform procedures inside an organ such as the colon or esophagus.

What are the benefits?

Dr. Wagner: Smaller incisions mean less blood loss, less pain, fewer complications, a shorter hospital stay and a quicker recovery. You may need less pain medication and have a lower risk for infection. People get back to work and to their daily activities faster. Patients who need radiation or chemotherapy may be able to start those treatments sooner because they heal faster.

Which types of cancer can be treated with minimally invasive procedures at Valley Health?

Dr. Flaherty: When appropriate, minimally invasive surgery can be used for cancers of the colon and rectum, esophagus, small intestine (bowel), stomach (gastric cancer), pancreas, lung, urinary tract and liver as well as gynecological cancers.

Who is a good candidate?

Dr. Flaherty: Anyone who is medically fit for open surgery can have minimally invasive surgery. However, in some cases open surgery is the best option. We see every person we treat as an individual. We make treatment decisions with them and with the Cancer Center’s multidisciplinary team of oncologists, radiologists and other specialists based on their unique situation.

How do the minimally invasive surgical options for cancer at Valley Health compare to other medical centers in the Mid-Atlantic region?

Dr. Wagner: Our operating-room facilities and equipment at Winchester Medical Center as well as our knowledge and experience of advanced surgical techniques and of the surgical management of cancer are on the leading edge. There are rare cancers and treatments for which some patients may need to travel to another facility. But most patients can receive the same level of care for most cancers that they would if they drove hours away to a university medical center – without the stress, the inconvenience and the financial and travel barriers that can make options like minimally-invasive procedures seem out of reach.


To learn more about Valley Health's Minimally Invasive Surgical options, and to request a physician referral, visit