Ilija Sakota's left kidney was removed due to cancer in 2004. Last year, his right kidney was diagnosed as cancerous.
"This news about cancer in my right kidney, it hit me," Sakota says. Losing his remaining kidney would mean that Sakota would have to spend the rest of his life on dialysis, or receive a kidney transplant. But his doctors at UCLA hoped they could spare Sakota that future by using advanced robotic surgery to perform a partial nephrectomy.
A surgical robot enables surgeons "to spare more of the normal kidney and, therefore, extend normal quality of life while at the same time safely removing the cancers," says urologic surgeon Jim Hu, MD.
Sakota's surgery was made more challenging by the location of the tumor - deep inside his kidney. Getting to the tumor could result in life-threatening blood loss, Dr. Hu notes. But with the use of ultrasound to map the location of the tumor, coupled with the experience of the surgeons and the greater surgical precision that is afforded by the robot, the operation, which might otherwise not have been feasible, was possible.
Today, Sakota is cancer-free. "I was confident that at UCLA I can find the help," he says. "These people really worry about you - not only about your disease but about you as a person. I don't worry now about my future."