Transoral Robotic Surgery (TORS)

45,000 Americans and approximately 500,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with head and neck cancers each year. Tumor treatments often involve a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. In many cases, surgery offers the greatest chance of cure; yet conventional surgery may require an almost ear-to-ear incision across the throat or splitting the jaw, resulting in speech and swallowing deficits for patients. In comparison, the minimally invasive transoral robotic surgery (TORS) approach, which accesses the surgical site through the mouth, has been shown to improve long term swallowing function and reduce risk of infection while speeding up the recovery time.

TORS is a minimally invasive surgical technique using the DaVinci Robot to remove cancers of the pharynx (throat and tongue) and larynx (voice box) through the mouth (transoral). In the past, many of these cancers were removed through large neck incisions. Today, specialized mouth retractors expose these tumors allowing robotic instruments and high definition endoscopes access to work in the delicate areas of your mouth and throat. The robot provides your surgeon better visualization with finer, more precise movements when operating.

Our surgeons were the first in Milwaukee and second in the state of Wisconsin to perform TORS for head and neck cancer.

When compared to traditional surgeries, after their cancers have been removed successfully, patients have been able to begin swallowing on their own sooner and leave the hospital earlier. TORS outcomes are markedly improved when compared to standard chemotherapy, radiation or traditional open surgical approaches for oropharyngeal cancer.

Treatment of head and neck cancers can be complex and may require surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy. Treatment of these areas can affect a person's appearance and ability to function with regard to eating, swallowing, speaking, smelling and breathing. We believe every patient deserves an expert consultation from not only one physician but a team of experienced and dedicated physicians trained in head and neck oncology.

The Vince Lombardi Cancer Center (VLCC) at Aurora conducts weekly cancer conferences to discuss new cases. Experts in the areas of surgical oncology, radiation oncology, medical oncology, plastics and reconstructive surgery, radiology, pathology, and genetics analyze each case, generate an open discussion, and form a personalized treatment plan. All available treatment options are discussed with the patient and a final treatment decision is made by the patient.

The VLCC offers a multi-disciplinary team approach to caring for head and neck cancer patients along with cutting edge treatment options. We provide minimally invasive surgical techniques to improve recovery times, function and cosmetic outcomes. We offer conformational Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) and the area's only rapid arc linear accelerator.

The VLCC provides comprehensive cancer care under one roof. The cancer center support staff and nursing coordinator will help guide patients through their appointments and scheduling process in an expedited manner. Comprehensive post-treatment rehabilitative services are also available including speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, dietary services, home health nursing, and wound care specialists that offer hyperbaric oxygen treatments when necessary.

To learn more about robotic-assisted surgery, see our frequently asked questions. To find out if robotic-assisted surgery may be right for you, visit Aurora's Second Opinion Program or call 888-973-2663.