New surgery improves head and neck cancer treatment

April 30, 2008

A new surgical procedure for head and neck cancer at the University of Alabama at Birmingham offers improved accuracy for surgeons and reduced post-operative pain for patients.

The new procedure uses robotic surgery, and results have shown it lessens the scarring, breathing problems and damage to speech that can happen with treating head and neck cancers, said William Carroll, M.D., a scientist in the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Initial tests have shown the new procedure also shortens recovery times for cancer patients.

"This application takes robotic surgery to new places in the body," said Carroll, a head and neck surgeon within UAB's Division of Otolaryngology, and one of the first surgeons to begin using the procedure for head and neck cancers.

"There is an option for patients to have a more minimally invasive surgery, and one that could effectively remove the cancer while causing fewer side effects," he said.

Robotic surgery is an alternative to traditional open surgery and a refinement on the concept of laparoscopic surgery, Carroll said. The robot most commonly used in cancer treatment is called the da Vinci, which is sold by Intuitive Surgical.

UAB was the first medical center in Alabama and among the first in the United States to begin using the da Vinci for head and neck cancers more than a year ago. Since that time, 40 UAB patients have had the new operation.

Offering the new procedure to patients first involved adapting operating techniques and robot-arm positions, and continually refining those adaptations, Carroll said. The da Vinci was originally designed for operating on the lower and middle sections of the body, not the narrow spaces inside the head and neck.

The increased surgical accuracy comes from tiny cameras attached to the end of the da Vinci instruments. Carroll said the magnified, 3-D image gives doctors a greater field of vision than conventional open or laparoscopic surgery.

This year more than 40,000 Americans will be diagnosed with head and neck cancer, and more than 7,500 will die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. The disease includes cancers of the oral cavity, and the larynx and pharynx.

The most effective prevention strategy remains stopping risky behaviors like smoking, chewing tobacco or drinking excessive alcohol, Carroll said.

Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham

Explore further: Research exploring common biology of cancer, infection and psychiatric disease

Related Stories

Research exploring common biology of cancer, infection and psychiatric disease

November 16, 2017
Nevan Krogan, PhD, is a mapmaker, but the object of his exploration is not any newfound continent or alien world. Instead, he and his colleagues map cells. Rather than cities, towns and interstates, these maps show proteins, ...

'It never really leaves you.' Opioids haunt users' recovery

November 20, 2017
It's hard to say whether businessman Kyle Graves hit rock bottom when he shot himself in the ankle so emergency room doctors would feed his opioid habit or when he broke into a safe to steal his father's cancer pain medicine.

Multidisciplinary model cuts treatment delay in head, neck CA

October 29, 2017
(HealthDay)—For patients with head and neck cancer, a multidisciplinary head and neck clinic model is associated with reduced treatment delay, according to a study published online Oct. 26 in JAMA Otolaryngology—Head ...

Precise 3-D imaging of skin cancer tumours

November 15, 2017
Scientists and clinicians from Singapore and Germany have successfully used multispectral optoacoustic tomography (MSOT) to achieve accurate, real-time 3-D imaging of non-melanoma skin cancer tumours. This imaging technique ...

Wider sampling of tumor tissues may guide drug choice, improve outcomes

November 15, 2017
A new study focused on describing genetic variations within a primary tumor, differences between the primary and a metastatic branch of that tumor, and additional diversity found in tumor DNA in the blood stream could help ...

US scientists try first gene editing in the body

November 15, 2017
Scientists for the first time have tried editing a gene inside the body in a bold attempt to permanently change a person's DNA to try to cure a disease.

Recommended for you

African Americans face highest risk for multiple myeloma yet underrepresented in research

November 23, 2017
Though African-American men are three times more likely to be diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, most scientific research on the disease has been based on people of European descent, according to a study ...

Encouraging oxygen's assault on iron may offer new way to kill lung cancer cells

November 22, 2017
Blocking the action of a key protein frees oxygen to damage iron-dependent proteins in lung and breast cancer cells, slowing their growth and making them easier to kill. This is the implication of a study led by researchers ...

One-size treatment for blood cancer probably doesn't fit all, researchers say

November 22, 2017
Though African-American men are three times more likely to be diagnosed with a blood cancer called multiple myeloma, most scientific research on the disease has been based on people of European descent, according to a study ...

One in four U.S. seniors with cancer has had it before

November 22, 2017
(HealthDay)—For a quarter of American seniors, a cancer diagnosis signals the return of an old foe, new research shows.

Combination immunotherapy targets cancer resistance

November 22, 2017
Cancer immunotherapy drugs have had notable but limited success because in many cases, tumors develop resistance to treatment. But researchers at Yale and Stanford have identified an experimental antibody that overcomes this ...

Researchers discover specific tumor environment that triggers cells to metastasize

November 21, 2017
A team of bioengineers and bioinformaticians at the University of California San Diego have discovered how the environment surrounding a tumor can trigger metastatic behavior in cancer cells. Specifically, when tumor cells ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.