Health Watch: Robotics in throat cancer treatment

In the U.S., HPV is linked to about 70% of throat and mouth cancers.
In the U.S., HPV is linked to about 70% of throat and mouth cancers.(Photo Courtesy of the Mayo Clinic News Network.)
Published: May. 24, 2023 at 5:06 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - In the U.S., HPV is linked to about 70% of throat and mouth cancers.

More than 70% of those cancers are diagnosed in men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Treatment for throat and mouth cancers, also referred to as oropharyngeal or head and neck cancers, will depend on location and stage of the cancer as well as other factors.

Now, patients have safer, less invasive surgical treatments available to them thanks to ongoing innovation.

HPV-related cancer cases are increasing in two specific areas in the throat. “The tonsils in the back of the throat and the lymph node tissue in the back of the tongue,” said Phillip Pirgousis, M.D. in Otorhinolaryngology with the Mayo Clinic.

Cancers in these two locations can be a challenge, according to Pirgousis. “A lot of the challenges are often the location of the primary tumor because the throat and voice box area are very difficult to get access to.”

That’s where innovation with robotics allows for better tumor visualization, better lighting and better outcomes in terms of complete tumor removal. “We’re talking about big, open surgeries versus minimally invasive surgeries where we can access these difficult locations using technology, such as the surgical robot,” he explained.

All while having less impact on breathing, speaking, swallowing and communicating. “The surgical robot has improved the ability for us to not only completely remove tumors, but to remove them safely,” said Pirgousis.

Treatment is based on many factors, including location, stage of cancer, the type of cells involved, one’s overall health and personal preference.

Someone may have just one type of treatment, or may undergo a combination of cancer treatments.

A person’s care team will work with them to determine the best treatment plan.