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Chula Vista, Calif. — Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center is the first hospital in San Diego and one of fewer than a dozen in the United States to offer transoral robotic surgery (TORS), a minimally invasive treatment option for patients with oral cancer.
Nearly 40,000 new diagnoses of oral cancer are made every year, but it's usually not discovered until it has advanced significantly.
"Oral cancer can be hard to catch because the symptoms vary," said Dr. Albert McClain, an otolaryngologist affiliated with Sharp Chula Vista. "Some patients experience ear pain or have difficulty swallowing, while others have no symptoms at all."
Treatment for oral cancer typically includes a combination of radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery, but traditional surgery involves large incisions, which can have devastating side effects like facial disfiguration and permanently impaired speech, eating and swallowing. Famed film critic Roger Ebert brought attention to these risks when he lost his jaw due to complications from surgery.
Fortunately, these risks are dramatically reduced with TORS, which was developed at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 2004 and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2009. At Sharp Chula Vista, surgeons perform TORS using the da Vinci Surgical System's® robotic arms.
The benefits of TORS include an easier, faster recovery, less pain, fewer complications and the ability to avoid reconstructive surgery, which is typically required following traditional surgery. In addition, the need for additional treatment is often minimized.
"TORS isn't for everyone, but it's an important option to have," Dr. McClain said. "It's amazing to see how treatment for oral cancer is advancing."
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