Magnuson said swallowing varied depending on the location of the tumor, preoperative swallowing ability, cancer stage, and patient age; the findings on function were consistent with previous research. Moreover, he notes, all the patients in the study had regained full swallowing ability at the time of the last follow-up visit.
The results are encouraging, but more work needs to be done, say the authors. “The early functional and oncologic results justify the continued treatment of select patients with HNSCC [head and neck squamous cell carcinomas] with robotic-assisted surgeries.”
So how should a physician decide who would be an appropriate candidate? Magnuson defers to the FDA, explaining to HealthLeaders Media that the agency has approved transoral robotic-assisted surgery for patients with T1 and T2 cancers as well as those with benign tumors/disease.
Another study, also published in the Archives of Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, finds that most patients do not have ongoing speaking or swallowing difficulties following combined chemotherapy and radiation treatment for advanced head or neck cancer.
Kent W. Mouw, MD, then of the University of Chicago and now of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, and colleagues studied patients who were successfully treated with chemoradiotherapy for advanced head and neck cancer. An average of 34.8 months after completing treatment, 163 patients were assigned a speaking score of one through four; 166 patients were assigned a swallowing score of one through four at an average of 34.5 months after treatment, with increasing scores correlating with decreasing function.