Prostate cancer is a stealthy and dangerous killer. According to the American Cancer Society, it is the second most common cancer and a leading cause of death for American men. In fact, one out of every six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime.

In addition to its ubiquity, prostate cancer is also one of most challenging cancers to treat without leaving lasting side effects, permanent impotence and urinary incontinence among them. Traditional prostate cancer treatments include radical prostatectomies (removal of the entire prostate gland), as well as radiation and hormone therapies. But these procedures can result in long term side effects, specifically damage to nerves that affect potency.

However, Fairfield County patients who battle this disease now have a new surgical technique that aims to preserve pivotal nerves, reducing the likelihood of impotence and incontinence.

Dr. Ketan Badani, the head of Stamford Hospital's Urologic Robotics Program, finds that using a carbon dioxide (CO2) laser during surgery gives patients a better chance of retaining sexual function and urinary continence. "Until now, surgeons would cut or cauterize the nerves surrounding the prostate, risking irreversible damage," says Dr. Badani. He adds, "Since the CO2 laser is more precise and easy to manipulate, we can remove the nerves intact and preserve them. Men are back living normal lives much quicker than ever before."

With assistance from robotic instrumentation to remove the prostate, Dr. Badani maneuvers the flexible CO2 laser into the small and hard-to-reach area. While removing critical nerves encased around the prostate, the laser emits little heat -- or thermal spread -- and leaves the surrounding nerves unharmed. And because the surgery is minimally invasive, patients experience less trauma and spend less time in rehabilitation.

The robot enables the physician to view patients at huge magnifications, which allows the surgeon to perform precise procedures through small incisions. Dr. Badani's technique is used for, as he refers to it, "The nerve-sparing portion of prostate removal operation, as an adjunct to improve the recovery of sexual function."

"Prostate cancer is not a symptomatic disease," says Dr. Badani. "It is silent and therefore needs to be screened for." He recommends men begin regular screenings for the disease at age 50, but adds, "Many believe the age for screenings should begin at 40, particularly for African American men or men with a family history of prostate cancer."

Click here for more information about Stamford Hospital's robotics program or call .

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