Gynecologic oncology (often called "gyn onc") is the medical specialty that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of cancers that affect a woman's reproductive system. These female reproductive cancers include ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, cervical cancer, vaginal cancer and vulvar cancer, along with other types of cancer that may have started elsewhere and traveled to these organs. Gynecologic oncologists complete specialty training in obstetrics and gynecology before moving on to fulfill the subspecialty education and training requirements for gynecologic oncology.
Gynecologic oncologists are expert surgeons trained to use advanced technology to perform minimally invasive procedures in the complex and sensitive tissues of a woman's reproductive system. They also treat noncancerous gynecologic problems that require complex surgery.
At Stanford Health Care – ValleyCare, our gynecologic oncology practice provides compassionate, patient-centered cancer care, surgery and post-operative care. We help women at high risk for gynecologic cancer to understand their genetic counseling results and to make decisions that are right for them. From the selection and training of our office staff to follow-up care after surgery, our goal is to ensure that every woman receives optimal treatment that delivers the best possible odds of a good outcome.
Our fellowship-trained physicians specialize in minimally invasive robotic surgery, using state-of-the-art technology to provide the most advanced care. A minimally invasive approach isn't necessarily the best for every patient and every situation, but it can offer important advantages. These include less bleeding, less pain, a lower risk of complications, faster healing and a quicker recovery.
As is true with many forms of cancer, gynecological cancer can often be treated effectively—sometimes even cured—when caught early. In conjunction with Stanford Health Care – ValleyCare's cancer program, our Tri-Valley patients have access to fully integrated services, including radiation therapy and hematology, and a wide range of support groups and patient and family resources, as well as a direct connection to the resources of the Stanford Cancer Institute.
Learn more about the Stanford Cancer Institute.
Robotic-Assisted Gynecologic Surgery at Stanford-Health Care
When she was scheduled for surgery at Stanford Health Care – ValleyCare, Roseline Miller had no idea that she would enter that hospital's milestone list. She hadn't really thought about what it might mean to be the first patient treated by ValleyCare's first surgical robot in its first gynecological cancer program—until a few minutes before her surgery.
"Someone asked me if I had a nickname," she said. "Rose" was her answer. "That person went away and came back and told me, 'We named the robot Rose!'" She briefly saw the robot as she went into the OR and doesn't remember anything after that until she woke up after the surgery.
Miller's doctor, Trung Nguyen, told her at their first meeting that a robot would be assisting him at ValleyCare when he removed the cancer found in her uterus. Miller, 78, grandmother of four and great-grandmother of three, wasn't bothered. "OK," she said. "I'm ready."
The advantages of robot-assisted surgery to patients are substantial, Nguyen said. "A patient will have less blood loss, less pain and fewer wound complications." Nguyen's experience in the treatment of gynecological cancer includes more than 300 procedures with a robot.
Each of the robot's multiple arms has a different instrument at its end point to provide light, imaging and the appropriate surgical tools for the type of surgery to be done. The arms, as slender as a pencil at the end, inserted into the patient through half-inch incisions.
The robot's movements are controlled by a surgeon who sits at a console near the patient. The tools do exactly what the surgeon would have done by hand, but they do offer extras. The robot's imaging tool magnifies the area of the body where the surgeon works to 10 times human vision.
Everything Nguyen had told her about the advantages of robot-assisted surgery was true for Miller. "I never had pain and I never had bleeding," she said. She was able to walk a few hours after her surgery. She did enjoy her new claim to fame. "People came in to meet me and would introduce me with 'Here's the lady we named the robot after!'"
Now fully recovered, Miller is very proud of her metallic namesake. "Rose is working really hard," she said. "She's saving a lot of lives. I can't brag about that enough! And if I ever were to have surgery again, I want to have the robot."
The robot has also given her greater cachet with her great-grandchildren. On her abdomen, Miller has three scars from the incisions where the robot's tiny arms were inserted. "One of my great-grandchildren always wants to see the three little scars she knows came from the robot," Miller said.