Robotic Oncology Center

Trevor Mackay

Trevor Mackay, UC Irvine robotic prostatectomy patient
Trevor Mackay chose UC Irvine's Dr. Thomas Ahlering to perform robotic prostatectomy.

Prostate cancer patient

At 49 years old, Trevor Mackay was the picture of health — participating in Pilates, jogging several times a week and training for a triathlon. So when the results of his annual PSA test revealed a slight increase over his previous test, he wasn’t the least bit concerned. Still, his doctor referred him to a urologist for further testing.

"I was certain I was fine and that this appointment was just procedural," says MacKay. But two weeks after his visit with the urologist, he was shocked to learn that he had prostate cancer.

"I chose to have robotic-assisted surgery over radiation or traditional surgery," Mackay says. "My case was fairly advanced and I was confident that the robotic procedure would get rid of the cancer." He also heard that the surgery would spare the nerves responsible for urological and sexual function. However, Trevor knew that this was dependent on the skill of the surgeon performing the procedure.

Mackay interviewed four prostate surgeons — three from highly regarded academic institutions. "It’s difficult to interview doctors because you don’t know how to evaluate what they’re saying," he says.

Nevertheless, Mackay did his research and tried to learn everything he could about the various treatment options for prostate cancer. "You have this cancer growing inside of you, but if you get it out while it’s contained, you can live a relatively normal life," he says.

Mackay's return ticket to normalcy was the robotic-assisted prostatectomy performed by UC Irvine Healthcare prostate surgeon Dr. Thomas Ahlering. After interviewing three other physicians, he felt most comfortable putting his life in Dr. Ahlering’s highly skilled hands.

"He demonstrated the strongest knowledge base coupled with the most experience. I was his 950th robotic-assisted prostatectomy. That’s an impressive track record," Mackay says.

What also appealed to Mackay was the unique cooling technique Ahlering had developed to improve the quality of life for prostate cancer patients. Even when a surgeon performs ideally and avoids injury to the sexual nerves and the sphincters responsible for urinary control, most men take weeks to months to recover. Ahlering’s research showed that by cooling the pelvic region to between 60 and 68 degrees during the procedure (like icing a sprained ankle), trauma and inflammation from the surgery itself is reduced, leading to faster and better overall recovery of urinary continence and sexual function.

"After the procedure, I experienced no pain," Mackay says. "I felt like I simply over-exercised — not like I had undergone major surgery." He says he regained continence within three days after the removal of his catheter. He attributes his remarkable recovery to Ahlering’s cooling technique as well as his own practice of Pilates exercises for three years prior to surgery.

"The quality of the surgeon makes a tremendous difference in the outcome," Mackay says. "A lot of my father’s friends who had traditional surgery were laid up for six to eight weeks. I walked three miles just three days after surgery. Now, I’m four weeks out and I have no problem jogging on the beach, bicycling and I’m about to start swimming for triathlon training."