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Cancer Surgery Robot

September 23, 2009

A robot may help cancer surgeons confirm the locations of tumors.


A robot’s touch for tumors. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Despite all the technology behind them, cancer surgeons confirm the exact location of a tumor by poking it – either with a finger or a probe. Tumors are much stiffer than healthy tissue, but still can be tricky to identify. Recently, Canadian scientists decided to see if a robot could do better. Jayender Jagadeesan, now of Harvard University, was on the team.

The robotic trials show much better performance in terms of the accuracy, the time, as well as the force required for doing the palpation.

Specifically, their robot found tumors in cow livers 40 percent more accurately than human surgeons. And its softer touch could mean less damage to healthy tissue. However, Jagadeesan says the robot needs major modifications before it could be used in actual surgery. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.