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Doctors Continue Use of Procedure Known to Worsen Cancer Outcomes

Mar 18, 2019

Robotic surgery is not approved to treat cancer, and may actually worsen outcomes, yet physicians continue to use it, according to a recent article in the New York Times. The Food and Drug Administration issued warnings about the robotic procedures, noting that there is no evidence of safety or effectiveness for cancer treatment, and some patients could be harmed.

In cases of cervical cancer, the robotic procedure has been associated with increases in recurrence of the disease and death. The article cited two studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine last year.

The first found “four times as many cancer recurrences and six times as many deaths” in women with cervical cancer who had been treated with robotic surgery, as compared to traditional surgery. “The trial’s findings were especially striking because the surgery, a radical hysterectomy, usually cures patients with cervical cancer,” said Dr. Pedro T. Ramirez, lead author of the paper and director of minimally invasive surgical research at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

The second study by the National Institutes of Health analyzed data following robotic and traditional surgeries for treatment of cervical cancer. Researchers found 9.1 percent of women treated with robotic surgery had died within four years, compared to 5.3 percent of women treated with traditional surgery.

Lack of physician training on the robotic procedure, as well as elements inherent to the way the procedure is done, may be at issue, noted the article. Physicians who continue to use the procedure as an “off-label” alternative for cancer surgery will place themselves at risk for medical malpractice lawsuits in Pennsylvania.

Making informed decisions about cancer treatment and care can help avoid instances of medical malpractice by a physician. If you might be a victim of medical malpractice in Pennsylvania, consult the experienced team at Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer.