March 16, 2009 -- Question: Are all urologists trained to perform laparoscopic or robot-assisted prostate cancer surgery?
Answer: Urologists are specialists in the management of prostate cancer. Many urologists go on to perform an oncology fellowship, a urological oncology fellowship, which is between one and three years after training for your residency in urology. These are the real specialists. Doctors who really operate on and manage prostate cancer in an intensive way on a regular basis. And so many of these doctors, both general urologists and more specifically urological oncologists, are specifically trained in laparoscopic and/or robotic techniques. But you should remember that because these techniques are rather new, some of the training may therefore lag. And so many of the quality indicators you may want to ask your doctors: how many robotic prostatectomies have you done? How long have you been doing them? Have you done them all by yourself, or has somebody mentoring you during your learning curve? You might also want to ask them how many open prostatectomies they have done because sometimes in the middle of the robotic prostate operation, it has to be converted to an open and you want somebody to be sure that they can do it either way. That they're facile and able to move in either direction as your case warrants.