Robots Rebuilding Bladders

FRESNO, Calif.

Elk, deer, goat, turkey, bear, boar…

These trophies represent a passion for Ken Patterson. But he was forced out the field when he was told he had stage three bladder cancer.

"It was devastating," Ken Patterson, bladder cancer survivor, told Ivanhoe.

"I couldn't believe it. I just kept asking if he had the right patient," Rosemary Patterson, Ken's wife, recalled.

Ken and his wife found Urologic Cancer Surgeon Carol Salem at Scripps Mercy Hospital. She uses a robot to remove the cancer, take out the bladder and prostate.

"It's a devastating diagnosis because as you can imagine, getting the tumor out is one thing, which includes the removal of the bladder and the prostate," Carol Salem, M.D., at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego, said.

Treating bladder cancer is traditionally done by creating a large incision from the pubic bone to the belly button.

The robotic surgery requires an incision a third of that size and there's less blood loss--both help lead to a faster recovery. During Ken's nine and a half hour surgery, Dr. Salem was able to build a neo-bladder out of his bowel, giving him control he thought he my never have again.

"When we do surgery robotically, we can spare the pelvic nerves," Dr. Salem added.

"Everything works just like it always worked," Ken explained. This represents success to Ken…

"92 days after major surgery I was out in the woods hunting elk again," Ken concluded.…And he got one!

For women, the robot-assisted surgery helps in the removal of the bladder, uterus and ovaries. This surgery is not for everyone. Patients must have good kidney function and no cancer in the urethra.

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marsha Hitchcock at

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