Head & Neck Cancers

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Surgery

At Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, patients have access to national leaders in head and neck cancer surgical treatments. We offer the latest techniques for removing tumors as well as reconstructing damaged tissue to restore function and
appearance.

photo of robotic surgeryThe newest technique for removing tumors is Transoral Robotic-Assisted Surgery (TORS) for tumors of the upper aerodigestive tract (tumors of the back of the tongue and throat). University of Washington Medical Center brought robotic surgery to the region and continues to be the leading center for robotic surgery where other surgeons come to train.

Patients whose tumors can be removed via a minimally invasive approach using the daVinci robot can expect to return home in only a day or two without experiencing the long-term effects of more invasive techniques, once the only surgical option available.

Great advances have been made in reconstructive procedures as well. Structures affected by treatment can be reconstructed well enough that the patient is not disfigured. For example, when part of the lower or upper jaw needs to be removed, surgeons can now refashion a jawbone using bone from the patient’s leg, hip, or shoulder blade. The tongue can even be reconstructed with appropriate soft tissue from various parts of the body.

Using a simultaneous, two-team approach during surgery, with an oncologic surgeon and a reconstructive surgeon, the length of procedure time is significantly shortened. After surgery, a team of nurses, speech pathologists, and social workers help patients recover and rehabilitate.

For patients in whom a structure cannot be saved or restored, there are several new ways of helping to improve speech, swallowing, and other functions.

Doctors can now restore a patient’s vocal ability using a quick implant procedure. Other options for restoring a person’s vocals include an electrolarnyx—a device placed against the neck to help form words; and a tracheosophageal puncture—a surgical procedure that restores the patient’s ability to deliver air into the throat and eventually allows speech.