Robotic surgery improves outcomes in oral cancer patients

Robotic surgery conducted through patients' mouths provides excellent results in removing squamous cell carcinoma at the back of the throat, especially in patients with the human papillomavirus (HPV), according to a study published in the March issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Mayo notes that oral cancer is on the rise in younger patients.

"We were surprised that the cancer cure results were even better than the traditional treatments that we have been doing, but that is probably almost as much of a matter that these cancers are HPV-mediated for the most part, and they respond much better to treatment," author Eric Moore, a head and neck surgeon at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, said in a video interview. "Importantly, the treatment preserved patients' ability to swallow and their speech performance was excellent."

Because traditional surgery techniques to remove throat tumors can be traumatic, requiring cutting and reconstructing the jawbone, neck and tongue, researchers also were interested in patients' healing after robotic surgery, according to a Mayo announcement.

"We found that with transoral robotic surgery 96 percent of patients could swallow a normal diet within three weeks of treatment," Moore said.

Oral cancer, historically most common in elderly patients with a history of tobacco and alcohol use, is increasing in younger patients with HPV. "Fortunately, the newer form of cancer tends to be less aggressive, and the latest approach to treating the tumors can avoid the debilitating consequences of open neck surgery or extensive radiation," Mayo notes.

Although this study suggests robotic surgery improves recovery, another recent report says robotic surgery is not necessarily more effective than regular surgery.

To Learn  more:
- read the Mayo Clinic announcement
- see the Mayo Clinic blog post and video interview
- read the full study

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