Healthcare Technology Featured Article

August 07, 2014

Florida Doctor Questions the Efficacy of Robotic Surgeries for Prostate Cancer

The development of new technology in medicine is a long and laborious process involving public and private organizations. Every new product has to be scrutinized to ensure it has the least amount of side effects possible to the wider population. Even with these parameters in place, there are times in which a drug, device or procedure that has been approved after thorough investigation proves to be detrimental to patients. Dr. Bert Vorstman MD, MS, FAAP, FRACS, FACS, a Board Certified urological surgeon specializing in prostate cancer has challenged the robotic surgical system used for prostatectomies.

Even though we would like to think the healthcare industry as a whole and the professionals that provide many of the services to patients around the world are infallible, the truth of the matter is they are just human beings. This means mistakes will be made and policies will be put in place without the interest of the patient in mind, but the financial gain of the parties involved. Doctors recommending cigarettes is just one small example in a long pattern of conflict of interest in the industry.

Dr. Vorstman's assertion is robotic prostate cancer surgery is a public health nightmare, which he explains on a lengthy article on his site. According to the good doctor, there is an industry that has been built around the technology and the procedure in treating prostate cancer, and calls the prostatectomies performed by the robotic procedure a boondoggle for healthcare.

He says, "Most men with a prostate cancer label are over-treated for zero benefit, resulting in a trail of broken patients with bad postoperative outcomes including urinary incontinence and impotence. Because of a lack of sincere regulatory oversight, this robotic procedure has generated many product liability lawsuits."

According to him, this is based on lack of scientific data to prove the safety and benefit of prostate cancer treatment, "Again, the approval of robotics for prostate cancer treatment is yet another shining example of junk science and greed influencing "new research" to justify old, ill-conceived treatment philosophies," he added.

His concern is backed by other healthcare professionals, including: Anthony Horan MD in the book, “How to Avoid Over-detection and Over-treatment of Prostate Cancer”, Otis Brawley MD in his book, “How we do Harm”, and Richard Ablin, PhD, and Ron Piana in their book, “The Great Prostate Hoax”. Dr. Richard Ablin discovered the PSA, Dr. Anthony Horan is a urological surgeon who has detailed the wrongs concerning prostate cancer management, while Dr. Otis Brawley is the Chief Medical and Scientific Officer for the American Cancer Society. Additionally the authoritative U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) had cautionary warnings concerning the lack of merit for PSA prostate cancer screening and the lack of merit for treating screen-detected prostate cancer.

The PSA (prostate cancer specific antigen) blood test was developed in the 70s and according to Dr. Vorstman's article, it was never meant to be used as a screening biomarker for prostate cancer detection. He states the marker was "quickly hijacked by the prostate cancer industry for widespread and self-serving use."

If you are someone who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer it is very difficult trying to make the right decision based on the conflicting information that is out there. Let's hope the doctors we look up to will one day only have the concern of their patients instead of their pocket books, eliminating the confusion patients experience at a vulnerable time in their life.

Edited by Adam Brandt
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