When Scott McCarter learned he had tongue cancer, his doctors recommended radiation and chemotherapy. But while seeking a second opinion from a surgeon affiliated with Sharp HealthCare, he discovered an advanced treatment option that would redefine his treatment plan: minimally invasive robotic surgery.
“When I was introduced to robotic surgery at Sharp, it was the answer to my prayers,” says Scott, 63. “I wanted to see if there were options other than radiation and chemotherapy.”
Scott discovered he had tongue cancer after being diagnosed with a recurrence of mumps, a viral infection that he initially contracted as a child. To treat his mumps, Scott’s endocrinologist referred him to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor, who ordered a routine PET scan. The scan revealed Scott had a malignant tumor at the base of his tongue.
While researching other treatment options beyond radiation and chemotherapy, Scott met with head and neck surgeon Dr. Brianna Harris, who is affiliated with Sharp Memorial Hospital. She explained that she could surgically remove the cancer with the help of a da Vinci robotic-assisted surgical system, an advanced robotics device that makes precise, microscopic incisions in small spaces like the mouth, and can magnify views up to 10 times larger than the naked eye.
“When I found out that the tumor could be removed by Dr. Harris and the robot so precisely, I was ready for surgery as soon as it could be arranged,” says Scott.
Scott underwent surgery at Sharp Memorial with Dr. Harris in December 2019, and he returned to tolerating an oral diet within a week.
“All in all, I feel very blessed to have had the robotic option,” says Scott. “The robotic surgery was so much easier on my body than any other option would have been.”
Dr. Harris performed Scott’s surgery using the da Vinci Xi robotic-assisted system. Since then, Sharp Memorial has become one of the few hospitals in California to offer surgery to eligible patients through the da Vinci SP (single port) robotic-assisted system, which is designed specifically for head and neck surgeries. This advanced robotics platform provides surgeons with a wide range of motion and highly precise surgical control in the narrow spaces of the head, jaw and neck.
“Robotic-assisted surgery is a fantastic option for many patients,” says Dr. Harris. “The ability to offer a robotics system specifically designed for the tight quarters of the head and neck is an exciting tool that we now have in our toolbox.”
Scott adds that his dedicated care team at Sharp, along with Dr. Harris’ thorough explanations, aided him throughout the process.
“The staff in Admitting and Pre-surgery were wonderful, as was everyone in the ICU and on 4 West,” says Scott. “Everything that Dr. Harris said to expect during recovery was spot-on.”
Today, Scott enjoys a cancer-free life, and he will receive routine PET scans to check his health. Scott shows enthusiasm in telling others about robotic surgery and Dr. Harris’ expertise.
“The procedure is cutting-edge and is the only way to go,” says Scott. “My mission is now to educate others about my experience. Dr. Harris is my hero.”