Robotic Surgery for Head and Neck Cancer
Robotic surgery for the treatment of head/neck cancers has proven to be a promising treatment option for removal of early stage tumors of the tongue base, tonsil, throat, larynx and skull base. We are proud that the surgeons at the Comprehensive Cancer Center performed the first transoral robotic surgery, or TORS, in western North Carolina. Wake Forest is among an elite group of academic medical centers offering this new procedure.
What is TORS?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved TORS, a minimally invasive endoscopic technique, in December 2009, for removal of early stage tumors of the tongue base, tonsil, throat, larynx and skull base. Traditionally, those cancers have been removed either through an incision in the neck or through the mouth, which often requires splitting the lower lip and dividing the jaw. The TORS procedure avoids those incisions, using the same daVinci surgical robot that is used for other procedures, including prostatectomies.
Benefits of Robotic Surgery for Head/Neck Cancers
The chief benefit of TORS is the ability to remove tumors through the mouth, without extensive external incisions that can be disfiguring and prolong the recovery process. Most patients avoid placement of a tracheotomy or feeding tube. Other benefits of robotic surgery include shorter, more comfortable recoveries, and quicker return to normal function. Further, the benefits of robotic surgery include reduced risk of infection, shorter hospital stays and less scarring.
When robotic surgery is performed, some patients do not even need radiation therapy; in others it allows for lower radiation doses (de-intensification) with the potential for better swallowing and quality of life. We continue to study the effectiveness of robotic surgery for head/neck cancer treatment at Wake Forest. Quality of life following treatment is an important part of our program; read more about our head/neck cancer survivorship program.