Robotic Oncology Center

Pain free after robotic surgery

Jean Teetor
Paul R. Kennedy
UC Irvine patient Jean Teetor returned to work within two weeks after a robotic hysterectomy.

Severe pain and bleeding cured by a minimally invasive hysterectomy

Jean Teetor had been experiencing pain in her side for four days before she visited her UC Irvine primary care physician. Teetor's condition was so serious that the doctor immediately sent her to the emergency room for evaluation.

Teetor suspected a flare-up of endometriosis, a condition that affects at least 6.3 million U.S. women. It occurs when cells normally found in the uterine lining grow outside the uterus, usually on the ovaries, fallopian tubes and in the pelvic cavity. It can result in heavy menstrual bleeding, debilitating pain and other complications, including infertility. 

"I had been struggling with painful endometriosis my entire life and noticed periodic bleeding," says Teetor, senior director of revenue audit for UC Irvine Medical Center. But these sensations in her side felt like something more serious.
Teetor was right. A computed tomography (CT) scan uncovered a golf ball-sized mass on her ovary and uterine lining that was far too thick for a 54-year-old woman. She immediately scheduled a consultation with Robert Bristow, M.D., director of gynecologic oncology services at UC Irvine Medical Center, Orange County’s only university medical center and home to the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of only 40 U.S. cancer centers designated for comprehensive excellence by the National Cancer Institute

"The entire cancer center is a very impressive operation and Dr. Bristow is wonderful," says the Laguna Niguel resident. "He spent considerable time with me on my very first visit and he was very patient, answering any questions I had." 

Two weeks later, Teetor underwent robot-assisted surgery at UC Irvine Douglas Hospital to remove her ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes and cervix. The surgery revealed uterine fibroids as well as an ovarian cyst. This minimally invasive approach provided Teetor with a definitive diagnosis — the cyst was benign and she was cancer-free — while also resolving her chronic endometriosis. 

"When a women around or beyond the age of menopause has a complex ovarian cyst, ovarian cancer is always a possibility," says Bristow, noting that such cysts occur in about 10 percent to 15 percent of post-menopausal women, which is why it’s advisable to have experienced gynecologic oncologists perform such surgeries. "Fortunately, in Teetor’s case, the tumor was benign. However, she was also having symptomatic bleeding from fibroids, which is why we performed the hysterectomy."

With open surgery, patients who have such an extensive procedure normally require months to recover. Teetor was back at work in less than two weeks.

"I had a cesarean section to deliver my twins, so I was expecting the same type of recovery," she says. "But this surgery was a walk in the park — with one-quarter the recovery time." 

Now, just months after the hysterectomy, Teetor says she feels better than ever. Even after menopause (before her procedure), her endometriosis had caused her to experience periodic pain and bleeding. Now all that is gone.

"I’m astonished with the results," Teetor says. "It’s such a relief to never have to go through that again."