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First-of-its-kind procedure now being used at Utah cancer center

Posted at 7:52 PM, May 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-14 00:15:44-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A new minimally invasive procedure is now a tool for doctors at the Huntsman Cancer Institute to help with the removal of cancer.

Rodney Poche, a 75-year-old retiree from Orem, was the first patient to undergo the treatment thanks to the use of the ION robotic arm.

“I was feeling fine and didn’t have any idea that anything was going on,” said Poche, whose cancer was detected at a routine screening in recent months.

Years ago, he had to have his kidney removed because of cancer and has since been doing checkups every six months.

“My doctor talked about how they had some kind of new technology. I didn’t know what it was. I still don’t know what it was!” he said.

Dr. Brian Mitzman is a general thoracic surgeon at the Huntsman Cancer Institute and operated the ION robotic arm for the procedure on Poche in January.

“Oh, it’s unbelievable," Mitzman said. "The way it’s able to help patients save more healthy lung tissue but still give them the same curative surgery for their cancer.”

He explained how it enables surgeons to be less invasive as they remove the cancerous tumors.

“Almost imagine if you took a pea and you hid it inside of a big wet sponge," Mitzman said. "So many times to do this type of surgery, you would have to take out a very large piece to get out the nodule or to actually get our hands inside the patient’s chest.”

He said the technology is new and has only been out a year or two, but HCI is the first center and the only one in Utah to use it for this purpose.

“It’s being used in some other hospitals for diagnosis, for doing biopsies, but we’re the only ones using it to actually mark a tumor for a patient for a surgery and do a smaller resection," he said.

Poche said he felt little to no pain from the procedure and went home the very next day.

“I never took any kind of pain medication after I got home," he said. "They said they took out a wedge. I don’t know how they did that either, but it went green, so they could go in and just cut the green out and figured they got it all.”

Poche said he was not a smoker and has always tried to live a clean life, but knows this could happen to anyone. He says he was thrilled to be able to be the first one to go through this.

“Oh sure, I mean it went so easy," he said. "It’s like, 'Is anything else going to come or am I ready for any other changes?' We just keep on doing our best and realize how blessed we are.”