GLEN COVE, N.Y. (PIX11) – Robots are taking over many industries, and now we’re seeing them in the medical field as they are being incorporated in the operating room performing surgery on patients.
A Long Island woman says robotic surgery saved her life from breast cancer and it was even her idea to go under the knife by the robot.
Mary Leonardi of Lindenhurst has a history of breast cancer in her family and has been monitoring her health since being diagnosed with Lynch syndrome in 2007, a genetic disorder that makes her more susceptible to breast cancer.
“Because of my Lynch, I’ve been heavily screened, tested, poked, probed and prodded for 15 years of my life in anticipation of preventing early cancers,” Leonardi said.
After surviving thyroid cancer and a hysterectomy, she decided to undergo a double mastectomy to be safe. When it came to breast reconstruction, she didn’t want implants. Instead, she wanted something more natural to be used like her belly fat tissue and for the surgery to be performed by a robot, so in 2018 she presented the idea to Dr. Neil Tanna, vice president of Katz Women’s Surgical Center at Glen Cove, but he wasn’t on board initially.
“I said, ‘I don’t do that,’ and I almost dismissed that,” Dr. Tanna said.
Leonardi had prior experience with robotic surgery with her hysterectomy, yet Dr. Tanna denied the idea until a few years later when he attended a lecture by Dr. Jesse Selber, vice chair at Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, who had experience with it.
“I was blown away and I was like, ‘Not only is he right, but Mary is right for wanting this,’ and that’s the resilience to the story,” Dr. Tanna added. “That’s the empowerment to the story because she didn’t give up.”
After a cancer scare on a mammogram in 2021, Leonardi presented the idea to Dr. Tanna again. Dr. Selber flew in from Texas, and with the assistance of the robot, their team — also led by Dr. Gai Sugiyama — successfully completed the eight-hour operation earlier this month.
It works with a surgeon guiding the robot from the console, but the robot is the one actually touching the patient and performing the operation at the direction of the surgeon.
The groundbreaking technology is the first on Long Island and first major advance since it was developed more than 25 years ago.
“Very few teams have been able to put together a well-rounded group of people that have the capabilities to accomplish this, so I’m very happy for the Glen Cove team,” Dr. Selber said.
The doctors say the benefits include a reduced risk of abdominal hernia and bulge, reduced pain and quicker recovery time.
“I want women to have all choices, an abundance of all choices,” Leonardi added. “We shouldn’t be limited in our options for something major as breast reconstruction.”
Since Leonardi’s operation, two additional patients have also undergone the breast reconstruction surgery with the robot at Glen Cove Hospital and many more patients are lined up.