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2010 press releases

Cancer patient searches worldwide for robotic surgery specialist – chooses

Ashok Thakkar is a happy man.  Sitting in a rented condominium in Chicago's Streeterville neighborhood, the 57 year-old businessman smiled as he packed his suitcases for his trip home to Bombay, India.  His arrival in Chicago in November 2009 was not for business or pleasure, but to undergo surgery for prostate cancer.  Two weeks later, he returned home after a successful operation at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill.

"It was in August 2008, that my routine medical examination revealed that I had a high PSA (prostate-specific antigen) level - over 60," said Thakkar.  "A urologist in India prescribed antibiotics for me, which only reduced the PSA level slightly, so I underwent a biopsy, which came back benign."

When a follow-up PSA level blood test was performed in July 2009, Thakkar's levels were even higher and he insisted on being treated by another urologist.  This time, a more extensive biopsy was performed and found prostate cancer.  "Still, I was told my cancer was minimal," Thakkar added.  "I was told that I didn't have much cancer in my prostate, but after my prostate was removed they found that I had 70 percent."  The final biopsy of Thakkar's prostate revealed he had more aggressive, as well as more extensive cancer within his prostate gland than his initial biopsy had suggested.

In India, Thakkar was advised to seek laparoscopic robotic surgery, so, together with his physician, he began to research known experts in robotic surgery.  As an exporter of food worldwide, Thakkar had traveled extensively and was familiar with the advanced medical technology available in the United States.  In fact, his wife, who suffered with breast cancer before she passed away in 1999, underwent radiation therapy in Los Angeles, Calif.  Through research and word of mouth, he interviewed three reknown surgeons in this country, and selected Advocate South Suburban Hospital urologist Rajesh Patel, M.D., as his surgeon.  "I was very comfortable with Dr. Patel," said Thakkar.  "He made it clear that I should undergo surgery immediately and was able to schedule my procedure right away."

Dr. Patel has been using the cutting-edge da VinciTM Surgical System for prostate surgery since Advocate South Suburban Hospital obtained the equipment last year.  "The key to the da Vinci system, is that it is allowing us to perform the same operations we always have, not something new," said Dr. Patel.  "This instrument is giving us the ability to perform those operations better, with smaller incisions."

Minimal incisions also means less pain and less scarring for patients like Thakkar.  "I started walking in the hospital the day after my surgery," he claimed.  "I did not suffer much in surgery.  I only had one overnight stay and felt good enough to leave the hospital." For a week, Thakkar took it slow, spending time with his 26 year-old daughter at the condominium in Chicago until he felt strong enough to go shopping and visit with friends.

"I had to buy two extra suitcases to carry things home," he laughed. "I am looking forward to getting back to my life."   One of the first activities Thakkar's enjoyed on his way home last November was a week-long layover in London, England, where he was entertained at a dinner party at Buckingham Palace with the queen of England.  The next morning he was on a flight to Bombay.

At home in India, he was reunited with his 24 year-old son and his brothers, who all share their homes in the same building.  Every few weeks, Thakkar will take follow-up PSA blood tests to ensure there are no further traces of cancer.  "I am very hopeful, and I know that Dr. Patel has confidence," Thakkar said.  "I have an appreciation for everyone who cared for me during my hospital stay.  They gave me a lot of comfort.  I felt like I was back home where everyone knows me."

Dr. Patel still keeps in close contact with Thakkar.  "I have monitored his PSA blood test results and he is now fully recovered and cured," he stated.

About the daVinci

During robotic surgery, a physician sits at a console about 10 feet away from the patient and controls robotic arms positioned inside the patient.  The surgeon is able maintain a wide range of movements in a way that is currently not possible with laparoscopic instrumentation.

"A huge advantage to the da Vinci system specifically, is that other similar robotic tools require the physician to watch a two-dimensional television," said Dr. Patel.  "Because it uses multiple cameras, the da Vinci system gives us three-dimensional vision and the extremely accurate depth perception needed to perform these procedures."

About the hospital

Advocate South Suburban Hospital is a 289-bed, acute care facility that serves Chicago's south suburbs.  In addition to offering a wide array of hospital services, the not-for-profit facility provides free screenings and a variety of other outreach services throughout the community.  The hospital is part of Advocate Health Care - one of the leading, integrated health care systems in the nation.  More information on the hospital and its physicians can be found at or by calling 1-800-3-ADVOCATE (1.800.323.8622).

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