Robotic Cancer Surgery: Nancy's Story

After noticing blood in her urine about once every four months, Nancy Gambino wanted to find out what was wrong, and how she could stop it. After consulting with her doctor and a community urologist, the first diagnosis was a bad urinary tract infection. But when she also began feeling regular discomfort in her lower back, she went back for further tests. Several growths were found in her bladder, and surgery was recommended.

“I had seven surgeries to try to remove the tumors and six rounds of chemotherapy,” said Nancy. “It was both exhausting and frustrating, so I self-referred to Roswell Park for a different opinion.”

At Roswell Park, Nancy’s surgeon diagnosed her cancer as deep and invasive—having spread into the muscle of the bladder. Her bladder would have to be entirely removed. And time was of the essence: recent studies have shown that waiting more than 90 days to remove invasive bladder cancer can increase the risk of dying by more than 112%.

“When they said I would lose my bladder I was devastated,” she shared. “But I thought if this will save my life… I have a lot of living to do. I wanted to keep going and see my grandkids grow up.”

Nancy was identified as one of Roswell’s first candidates for a new use of robotic surgery, which had already proven highly successful for prostate cancer removal. With the help of robotic surgery, Nancy’s blood loss during her surgery was cut in half, and post-surgery complications were greatly reduced.

Using the robotic technique, Roswell Park surgeons created a new bladder for her using parts of her intestine and colon—so she would live more naturally, without the restraint of an ostomy bag.

“I was at first fearful, and knew it would take some time to get used to—but my neobladder has been working wonderfully over these three years.” Nancy has resumed her active lifestyle, including travels abroad to Italy with her husband, Peter.

“Roswell has given me my life back—at a quality I was used to,” she adds. “I would not have this without the robotic technology, and I cannot praise my doctors enough.”