He suggests that people facing the choice of robotic versus traditional surgery interview three or four surgeons who perform one or both forms of surgery -- and also try to talk to some of their patients.
"Interview these doctors and then make a gut decision about what's right for you," Brawley said.
But even if you've found the right team, that doesn't mean robotic surgery is the right choice for you.
"The story has been written time and time again that the new technology or medicine is superior to the old standard," Brawley said. "Sometimes it is not."
A number of risk factors should be taken into account before choosing robotic surgery over traditional surgical methods, including the prospective patient's age and overall health, Chitwood said. And anyone who has a risk factor that increases the chances of complications should seriously consider standard surgery, he advised.
"No one wants a big cut, but they'll take a big cut for safety and to have the procedure done properly," he said.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on robotic surgery.
SOURCES: W. Randolph Chitwood Jr., M.D., director, East Carolina Heart Institute, senior associate vice chancellor, health sciences, chairman and professor, cardiovascular and thoracic surgery, Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University, Greenville, N.C.; Otis Brawley, M.D., chief medical officer, American Cancer Society, Atlanta; Oct. 14, 2009, Journal of the American Medical Association
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