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Robotic Surgery May Improve Head and Neck Cancer Survival Odds

HealthLeaders Media Staff, December 30, 2010

Less-invasive robotic surgery for upper airway and digestive track malignant tumors is as effective as other minimally invasive surgical techniques based on patient function and survival, according to research published Dec. 20, 2010, in the Archives of Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery.

Head and neck squamous cell carcinomas account for about 4% of malignant tumors diagnosed in the United States each year. Currently, the standard minimally invasive surgery for these tumors is transoral laser microsurgery. 

Previous studies have shown that robotic surgery was better for patients to regain the ability to swallow; this one also addressed survival rates. Investigators looked at 89 patients with various stages of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas whose primary tumor was resected using the da Vinci Robot. They were monitored during their hospital stay and up to 33 months after surgery.

The overall two-year survival rate for these patients, 86.3%, is comparable to the standard treatment, according to lead author J. Scott Magnuson, MD, an otolaryngologist at the University of Alabama-Birmingham and scientist in the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Those with earlier-stage tumors appeared to have slightly better recurrence-free survival than those with later stages, but it was not statistically significant.”

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