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Carolyn Johnson da Vinci® Single-Site™ Hysterectomy Success Story

Stopping cancer before it starts

Single-Site with da Vinci was the simple solution to a rare condition

Carolyn Johnson After a Single-Site hysterectomy with da Vinci,
Carolyn Johnson has no visible scars and was
able to relax with no more concerns about
her cancer risk.

Something wasn’t right. A check of her hormones said Carolyn Johnson was postmenopausal. She hadn’t had a period in months.

After a Single-Site hysterectomy with da Vinci, Carolyn Johnson has no visible scars and was able to relax with no more concerns about her cancer risk.

“But all of a sudden, at age 56, here comes my period,” she says, recalling the incident last February. Naturally concerned, Carolyn made an appointment with her OB-GYN, Carol Norton, MD, FACOG, on the medical staff at Methodist Richardson Medical Center.

A biopsy showed that Carolyn had endometrial hyperplasia, which means that the uterine lining grows unchecked. Doctors usually see one of three types:

Simple hyperplasia. The endometrial glands are normal, so there is little concern.

Complex hyperplasia. There are structural changes in the endometrial glands, which prompts further testing and monitoring.

Complex hyperplasia with atypia. In addition to structural changes in the glands, there are also changes in the cells. According to the American Cancer Society, 29 percent of the time this will progress into cancer if left untreated. The standard treatment is hysterectomy.

But Carolyn’s case was different: simple hyperplasia with atypia.

“This is really an odd combination,” Dr. Norton says. “I consulted with an oncologist, and he recommended that we treat it like complex hyperplasia with atypia because the cancer risk is so high.”

When Dr. Norton suggested Carolyn have a hysterectomy, she said, “The sooner the better.”

Rave reviews for robotic surgery

Carolyn benefited from a new robotic procedure: Single-Site™ hysterectomy with the da Vinci® Surgical System.

“Instead of four incisions, we’re able to get away with a single incision at the belly button,” Dr. Norton says. “Recovery seems faster for patients, and their postoperative pain is very low. It’s a nice alternative for many patients.”

Because Carolyn’s husband and son had both had positive experiences with robotic surgery for gallbladder removal, Carolyn says she felt confident about her own procedure.

“With the robot, you can be so much more accurate and careful,” she says. “With just your hands, it’s like trying to thread a needle. You know where it is, you know what to do, but the thread just doesn’t go through the eye of the needle. But with the robot, it’s like ding! and it’s in.

“And with only one incision, I was excited. The less the better, because then you have less to heal. I can’t even see my scar, so if I ever wanted to wear a bikini, I could — but I won’t put the world through that,” she adds, laughing.

Cancer-free = care-free

Carolyn spent one night at Methodist Richardson, and during her whole recovery only took two pain pills. Within days, she was shopping with her daughters, and in just a few weeks, she was back to gardening.

Pathology of her uterus showed that her condition had advanced to complex hyperplasia, but cancer is now a concern of the past.

“This is not something you mess around with,” she says. “And thanks to Single-Site, I don’t have to worry about it anymore.”

From the winter 2014 issue of Shine magazine.