Impacting Women's Cancers

Robotic surgery plays a role in cancer treatment for women

There will be about 47,000 new cases of endometrial cancer this year, according to the National Cancer Institute. For ovarian cancer, there will be about 22,000 new cases. For cervical, 12,000. Gynecologic oncology is the specialized field of medicine that treats these and other cancers that develop in a women’s reproductive system. It is also one of the specialized fields that has been significantly impacted by the advent of robotic surgery.

“Surgery with technology such as the da Vinci robotic surgical system is not for every woman who suffers from one of these cancers, but it is at the forefront of this field,” says Wm. Edward Richards, MD, a gynecologic oncologist in the Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion at St. Joseph’s/Candler. Dr. Richards serves as the Director of Gynecologic Oncology.

“If the patient is a good operative candidate, I will complete a surgical staging procedure in which I remove as much of the tumor as possible,” Dr. Richards says. “Once the patient recovers from that surgery, I can start treating her with chemotherapy or radiation therapy.”

A shorter recovery time is one of the immense benefits of the minimally invasive procedure made possible with the da Vinci surgical system.

“I used to remove these tumors with open surgery, which involves a larger incision through the abdomen,” Richards explains. “This meant that the patient could be in the hospital for five days or more.”

“With robotic surgery, I can proceed with a series of four or five small incisions,” Richards says. “These patients can usually leave the hospital after one or two days. Without those protracted recovery phases of open surgery, I can start them on their chemotherapy or radiation therapy much quicker.”

Dr. Richards is Board Certified doubly in Obstetrics and Gynecology as well as Gynecologic Oncology and Advanced Pelvic Surgery. Though he is new to the region, he is not new to the da Vinci surgical system. He estimates that he has completed between 350 to 400 robotic surgeries each year for the last six years.

The other pre-cancerous and cancerous conditions of the reproductive tract treated by Dr. Richards, in addition to those mentioned above, are uterine, vaginal, and vulvar cancer. Some of these cancers cause symptoms that can help physicians discover the problem at an earlier stage.

“With uterine cancer, there is usually some bleeding or other clues that their might be a problem,” Richards says. “Cervical and vulva cancer can sometimes be the same way.”

The exception is ovarian cancer—a notoriously aggressive disease that does not show early warning signs. Dr. Richards notes that there are no approved screening tests for ovarian cancer at this point, but he continues to keep his eye on current technological advances.

“I came to St. Joseph’s/Candler to make an impact,” Richards says. “Not just an impression, but an impact on women in this area who in the past would have traveled to another city because this disease process was under-served.”

  Wm. Edward Richards has an office now open in Candler Hospital’s LifeCare Center, 5353 Reynolds Street, Suite 200. An office for patients in Bluffton and Hilton Head is coming soon. Call 912-819-5771 for more information.
  • St. Joseph's Hospital Campus: 11705 Mercy Blvd., Savannah, GA 31419, (p) 912-819-4100
  • Candler Hospital Campus: 5353 Reynolds St., Savannah, GA 31405, (p) 912-819-6000
  • Find us on:

St.Joseph's Hospital Campus: 912-819-4100

Candler Hospital Campus: 912-819-6000