MINNEAPOLIS -- Thousands of people die each year soon after being diagnosed with esophageal cancer. That's because it usually goes undetected, until it's too late, at or around stage four.
Operating on it, can also be deadly. But Abbott-Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis has found a way around that. They saved a man's life Wednesday, using a high-tech medical robot called the DaVinci.
"When anyone says that you have cancer, you're scared," Richard Gillmer said. "I've come to grips with it."
Gillmer has stage two esophageal cancer. This type of cancer is rapidly rising for white males. Gillmer, however, had no symptoms. It was caught during a routine physical.
"I want people to know that this is a very silent killer," Gillmer said, who has suffered from acid reflux his entire adult life.
Avid reflux is a major risk factor for esophageal cancer.
There's a less than five percent mortality rate using the DaVinci robot to perform a esophagectomy. The surgeon sits at a console, and while looking at a 3-D screen, he controls robotic arms that are doing the work inside of the patient.
"The movements that I make are exactly duplicated," Dr. Dan Dunn said from Abbott-Northwestern Hospital.
The arms and camera run through Gillmer's incisions in his abdomen.
"With the robot, we can do the operation on the esophagus and stomach, then make the incision in the neck and
bring the stomach up to replace the esophagus we removed."
Meanwhile, Gillmer's tumor will be cut out, while his stomach becomes 40 percent smaller. Gillmer will need to eat in small portions for now on.
Gillmer's surgery lasted about five hours. He is recovering and doing fine.
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