Surgical First for Gynecologic Oncologist at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

Surgeon performs first-in-region single-incision robotic hysterectomy at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
March 4, 2014

Mira Hellmann, MDNew Brunswick, N.J. – A member of the gynecologic-oncology team at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) is the first in the region to have performed what is known as a single-incision hysterectomy using a robotic method.  Mira Hellmann, MD, a gynecologic oncologist, who is also an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, performed the procedure February 20 at RWJUH – the flagship hospital of the Cancer Institute of New Jersey. 

Robotic hysterectomy only started to become a standard of care in women’s health over the past five years, offering a minimally-invasive approach.  A series of four to five incisions measuring the diameter of a quarter were made in the pelvic region.  The latest robotic procedure known as the ‘single port’ method involves only one such incision – strategically placed near the belly-button to achieve a somewhat ‘scarless’ surgery, where in some patients the scar is barely noticeable to not noticeable at all.  The one-incision procedure, which takes the same amount of time to complete as the standard robotic method and requires special equipment, is made available only to select physicians throughout the country by the robotic device’s manufacturer based on surgical experience. Dr. Hellmann, one of these physicians, has been performing an array of robotic procedures spanning the field of gynecologic oncology since 2007.

Robotic hysterectomy allows a surgeon to control a set of robotic arms that hold tiny surgical instruments used to remove the patient's uterus. Unlike the traditional open hysterectomy method that results in a lengthy scar crossing the entire bikini line, patients who undergo this latest minimally-invasive technique are left with an incision the diameter of a quarter.  The procedure also allows for additional precision with a 3-D view of the tissue. Reduced blood loss and a shorter hospital stay also are hallmarks of the procedure.

Hellmann performed this first-of-its kind surgery on patient Margaret Cuny, a 58-year-old breast cancer survivor, who presented with an ovarian cyst in early 2013. The aim of the surgery was to rule out the possibility of cancer.   The cyst was discovered during a routine visit to her gynecologist, and after nearly a year of surveillance, Cuny and her local doctors decided a hysterectomy was in order, so they referred her to the Cancer Institute. “I was confident and comfortable with Dr. Hellmann’s skill in this area from the minute I spoke to her,” said Cuny.  

Cuny underwent the surgery, stayed one night in the hospital, and has been up and around since returning home.  “The initial pain subsided within two days, the scar is barely noticeable and I am pleased already with how quickly I was able to move around with ease,” she said.  The Spring Lake Heights resident is a busy sales associate for a department store chain and runs up to three miles a day about four times a week. “This new method of surgery is going to allow me to resume my regular, active lifestyle much quicker, which is very important to me,” she added. Following the procedure, it was determined there was no evidence of ovarian cancer.

“It’s about improved quality of life,” notes Hellmann.  “We at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and RWJUH are pleased to offer women increased access to the next generation of innovative robotic surgical techniques.”

About Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey ( is the state’s first and only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. As part of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, the Cancer Institute of New Jersey is dedicated to improving the detection, treatment and care of patients with cancer, and to serving as an education resource for cancer prevention. Physician-scientists at the Cancer Institute engage in translational research, transforming their laboratory discoveries into clinical practice, quite literally bringing research to life.  To make a tax-deductible gift to support the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, call 732-235-8614 or visit Follow us on Facebook at

The Cancer Institute of New Jersey Network is comprised of hospitals throughout the state and provides the highest quality cancer care and rapid dissemination of important discoveries into the community. Flagship Hospital: Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. System Partner: Meridian Health (Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Ocean Medical Center, Riverview Medical Center, Southern Ocean Medical Center, and Bayshore Community Hospital). Major Clinical Research Affiliate Hospitals: Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Morristown Medical Center, Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Overlook Medical Center, and Cooper University Hospital. Affiliate Hospitals: JFK Medical Center, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton (CINJ Hamilton), Shore Medical Center, Somerset Medical Center, The University Hospital and University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro.

About Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) is a 600-bed academic medical center which is the flagship Cancer Hospital of Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and the principal hospital of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, NJ. Robert Wood Johnson is an innovative leader in advancing state-of-the-art care. Its Centers of Excellence include cardiovascular care from minimally invasive heart surgery to transplantation, cancer care, and women’s and children’s care including The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital ( The hospital is also a Level 1 Trauma Center and serves as a national resource in its ground-breaking approaches to emergency preparedness. The hospital has earned significant national recognition for clinical quality and patient safety. RWJUH has been ranked among the best hospitals in America, according to U.S.News & World Report’s 2012 ranking of “America’s Best Hospitals, six times and has been selected by the publication as a high performing hospital in several specialties. The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital has also ranked among the nation’s Best Children’s Hospitals by U.S.News & World Report for two consecutive years. The American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer has rated RWJUH among the nation's best comprehensive cancer centers and the hospital’s Comprehensive Stroke Center is certified by the Joint Commission to provide complex stroke care. The Leapfrog Group rated RWJUH as one of the 50 exceptional U.S. hospitals, as published in Consumers Digest magazine, and has given the hospital an “A” grade for safety and quality. Harvard University researchers, in a study commissioned by The Commonwealth Fund, identified RWJUH as one of the top 10 hospitals in the nation for clinical quality. RWJUH is also a four-time recipient of the prestigious Magnet Award for Nursing Excellence. Visit us online at


Michele Fisher


precision medicine at Rutgers Cancer Institute







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