Susan K Providing a Cancer Answer

“Every single person I dealt with was truly wonderful. The floor nurses and staff were terrific. I felt they all cared about me.”

Was it cancer? That question hung over the discovery that Susan Krieger Rosen, 71, of Belle Harbor, NY, had a large mass in her right lung.

Richard Lazzaro, MD
Richard Lazzaro, MD

A biopsy typically would provide an answer. But Krieger Rosen’s doctor, Richard Lazzaro, MD, a board-certified thoracic surgeon at Monmouth Medical Center (MMC) and Chief of Thoracic Surgery for RWJBarnabas Health’s Southern Region, which also includes Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus and Community Medical Center, felt the lesion was too big for a biopsy to produce a reliable result.

“My mass was about 2 by 3 cm,” says Krieger Rosen. “Dr. Lazzaro explained that with a mass that large, a biopsy could sample one spot that doesn’t reveal cancer, yet there could still be cancer next to it. I would not be comfortable doing that.”

Krieger Rosen feared the worst as a former smoker who already had developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema. “We felt that this thing should come out regardless,” she says. She opted for surgery and felt reassured knowing that Dr. Lazzaro is a nationally recognized leader in minimally invasive thoracic procedures performed using robotic technology.

Robotic Advantages

Robotic surgery offered Krieger Rosen significant advantages, Dr. Lazzaro says. Instead of a large incision that would have been necessary with traditional surgery, she needed only a few smaller incisions on her chest and a few on her back to allow proper placement of advanced robotic instruments.

“The robot enables you to see things with 10 times magnification,” Dr. Lazzaro says. “That allows four surgeon-controlled arms holding a camera and instruments to operate with a clear view from a vantage point close to critical structures.”

Robotic surgery can reduce complications, infections, bleeding and blood transfusions, and its smaller incisions reduce scarring and allow patients to heal faster with less pain, Dr. Lazzaro says. Patients often spend less time in the hospital and recover more quickly after going home than with traditional surgeries.

Dr. Lazzaro uses a robot to perform most of his surgeries, including operations for lung tumors, esophageal disease, tracheal conditions and hiatal hernias. MMC offers robotic surgery in a range of other disciplines as well, including general, gynecologic and urologic surgeries.

“Robotic surgery has been around for 21 years, and MMC was an early adopter of the technology,” Dr. Lazzaro says. “Our team has trained other surgeons at major medical centers across the country, and we’re bringing world-class surgical care to the region.”

A Speedy Recovery

Krieger Rosen turned out not to have cancer but rather a mass called a granuloma—an area of inflammation typically seen in the lungs that can result from an infection or other inflammatory condition. In a two-and-a-half-hour robotic procedure performed on February 22, Dr. Lazzaro was able to remove the mass more precisely than with traditional open surgery while conserving healthy lung tissue.

“I stayed 12 nights in the hospital, not because of how the surgery went—it went perfectly—but because of the far distance I came for it,” Krieger Rosen says. “Dr. Lazzaro exercised extra caution so I would not suffer any unnecessary worry or complications after traveling home. He was acting in my best interest and treated me with the same care he would have given a family member. That’s another reason he is so incredibly special and why anyone would be fortunate to have him as their surgeon.”

She credits the robotic surgery with speeding her recovery. “I was walking 7,300 steps in the hospital just a few days after surgery, and everybody was astounded by how well I was doing,” she says. “I feel I only did this well because of the minimally invasive surgery that I had by Dr. Lazzaro. It was really amazing.”

Krieger Rosen also has high praise for MMC staff who cared for her during her surgery and hospital stay. “I couldn’t have received better care if I were the Queen of England,” she says. “Every single person I dealt with was truly wonderful. The floor nurses and staff were terrific. I felt they all cared about me, and I was happy to see them. They all were so cheerful and cooperative. I just can’t rave enough about everybody.”

Bringing Top Expertise in Robotic Surgery

Richard Lazzaro, MD, a board-certified thoracic surgeon and Chief of Thoracic Surgery for RWJBarnabas Health’s Southern Region, joined RWJBH in early 2022, bringing world-class expertise and a background that includes:

  • Having more than 30 years of specialized experience in thoracic surgery
  • Building a New York City hospital program with top lung cancer outcomes
  • Pioneering a number of groundbreaking minimally invasive surgical procedures
  • Presenting at international conferences on robotic techniques and outcomes
  • Training surgeons from throughout the country in robotic surgery

Learn more about Dr. Lazzaro. To schedule an appointment with him, call 732-818-3811.