Living Well

Minimally Invasive Surgeries Transform Head and Neck Cancer Treatment

Last updated: May 01, 2017

A middle-aged man finds a lump in his neck that turns out to be a base-of-tongue cancer. An elderly woman notices a sore in her mouth that will not heal and is diagnosed with oral cancer. A young man has difficulty swallowing and finds out he has thyroid cancer.

These are some of the patients that have come to the head and neck surgeons at Summit Medical Group MD Anderson Cancer Center for help. As part of our partnership with one of the leading cancer centers, we have access to the most advanced therapies, select clinical trials, and minimally invasive surgical techniques for treating and removing:

  • Benign tumors and growths of the head, neck, and endocrine or salivary glands
  • Cancers of the esophagus, larynx, oral cavity, pharynx, tongue, and mouth 

“Anything patients with head and neck cancers need will be available to them under one roof at Summit Medical Group MD Anderson—from surgery to chemotherapy and radiation treatment, imaging studies, and ancillary services like speech therapy,” says Michael Most, MD, a head and neck surgeon at the Summit Medical Group MD Anderson Cancer Center.  

“Almost all head and neck cancers involve a multidisciplinary approach—that means it involves a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, but not necessarily in that order. Not only do you want to be close to home when you have this type of treatment, but it is essential that the surgical and medical team be in constant communication. Summit Medical Group MD Anderson lends itself to that streamlined continuum of care.”

Benefits of Minimally Invasive Techniques

Head and neck cancer surgeries sometimes can result in significant disfiguration. Our physicians specialize in open techniques as well as reconstructive surgery to address cosmetic and functional issues. Whenever possible we use the most sophisticated minimally invasive techniques and robotic surgery to avoid scarring, disfigurement, and reduce the need for chemotherapy. We specialize in:

  • Transoral robotic surgery (TORS) — SMG is the first place in New Jersey to use a surgical robot to remove cancers from the mouth and throat. The robot’s arms, which are controlled by the surgeon, can fit in very small places inside the mouth.
  • Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery — a tiny camera and surgical instruments are inserted into small incisions in the chest. The camera helps guide the surgeon during the procedure so the operation is less invasive.
  • Laser microsurgery — removes tumors that even robotic arms cannot reach through the mouth and voice box without any incisions. 

Patients who have minimally invasive surgery are more likely to have:

  • A shorter hospital stay
  • A faster recovery
  • Less visible scarring
  • Less chance of infection after surgery
  • Less chance of disfigurement
  • Fewer minimal external incisions
  • Less need for chemotherapy and radiation
  • Less need for reconstructive surgery

A Multidisciplinary Approach to Care

We work as a team with various specialties, surgeons, medical oncologists, and social services to develop an individualized treatment plan for every patient. This includes:

  • Coordination with endocrinologists for thyroid cancer patients – our highly trained specialists perform their own ultrasonography and biopsy
  • Ancillary support services including physical and speech therapy 
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