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TORS: A Robotic Approach to Treating Oral Cancer

By David Wolraich, MD

According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 50,000 people will develop oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer this year. In recent years, there has been a rise in cases of oropharyngeal cancer linked to infection with human papilloma virus (HPV).

Generally surgery is the first treatment for oral cancers, and may be combined with radiation or chemotherapy depending on your situation. Tumors in the throat, base of the tongue, and tonsils can be challenging to reach with traditional instruments. In the past, these types of tumors have been removed through invasive surgeries requiring a large incision from lip to throat. This type of surgery required a long recovery period, extensive rehabilitation and could lead to difficulty with normal functions like swallowing and speaking.

Through the use of robotic, minimally-invasive da Vinci® Surgical System techniques, your physician is able to more easily reach head and neck tumors through the mouth. This surgical approach allows for a guided camera (endoscope) to provide a high resolution, 3D image of the back of the mouth and throat. Your surgeon will guide two robotic arms to oral tumors and safely dissect from surrounding tissue through internal incisions.

Benefits of Transoral Robotic Surgery

Studies show that transoral robotic surgery (TORS) outcomes result in swallowing and speech function that is as good or better than traditional surgical methods, and without invasive scars.

Below are benefits of TORS:

  • No Visible Scars: since surgery is done through the mouth, there are no visible scars.
  • Quicker Recovery: Compared to an open surgery, TORS patients recover more quickly and can generally leave the hospital in 2-4 days compared to 7 with an open procedure.
  • Maintain Swallowing/Speech: Unlike traditional surgery, nearly all patients recover their normal speech and swallowing ability.
  • Single Modality Treatment for Early Stage Cancers: With TORS surgery, there is a high probability that no additional treatments will be needed. This decreases the risk of injuring muscles used to swallow and other nerves of the throat.
  • Fewer complications and risks of infection
  • Less blood loss compared to a traditional surgery
  • No need for tracheotomy


If you have been diagnosed with head and neck cancer, or want to understand other treatment options, consider a second opinion with DuPage Medical Group. For more information, please call 630-545-7576. 

Topics and Subtopics: Cancer & Ear, Nose, & Throat

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