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OHSU Knight Cancer Institute Is First in Pacific Northwest to Perform TransOral Robotic Surgery

Technology is easier on patients during and after surgery
The OHSU Knight Cancer Institute has again pioneered some of the newest technology for head and neck cancer treatment in the Pacific Northwest. TransOral robotic surgery (TORS) removes tumors from the throat (oropharynx) and voicebox (larynx) while protecting a patient’s speech, swallowing and appearance. The OHSU Knight Cancer Institute is one of a small number of places on the West Coast where this minimally invasive surgery is provided.

Head and neck cancer is most often treated through a regimen of surgery and or radiation.  Advance staged cases may also require chemotherapy. Conventional surgery for throat cancer often requires that a patient’s jaw be broken, or that a large incision be made across the throat. This can cause difficulty with speech and/or swallowing after surgery.

Approved by the FDA for use in head and neck cancer surgery in January 2010, TORS allows a surgeon to reach the tumor through the patient’s mouth. This technique has proved effective in protecting long-term swallowing function, reducing the risk of infection, and speeding recovery time.

“Removing throat cancer completely through the mouth requires special coordination, nursing and instrumentation,” says Neil Gross, M.D., F.A.C.S., assistant professor of otolaryngology/head and neck surgery in the OHSU School of Medicine and member of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute.  “Therefore, it is only offered in select centers around the country.  We are proud to offer it now at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute.”  Dr. Gross performed OHSU’s first two TORS surgeries on March 27.  Both patients are doing well.

“We are very excited about offering TransOral robotic surgery at OHSU,” says Paul Flint, M.D., professor and chairman of otolaryngology/head and neck surgery in the OHSU School of Medicine and member of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. “The da Vinci robot was designed originally for abdominal surgery with opposing arms, thus limiting the TransOral approach.  As the technology evolves to single-port access, the applications for TransOral surgery will grow and surgeons at OHSU will continue to explore this state-of-the-art surgery.”  

45,000 Americans are diagnosed with head and neck cancers each year.  OHSU performed more than 1,400 head and neck cancer surgeries last year. TORS surgery is appropriate for select patients. TORS appears best suited for patients with early stage cancer.  In those cases, the use of robotic surgery can allow for more focused therapy and potentially reduced therapy.  For example, patients treated with TORS who still require radiation treatment can be treated with a lower dose of radiation and may avoid chemotherapy.
To learn more about TORS, visit

About the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute Visit
With the latest treatments, technologies, hundreds of research studies and approximately 400 clinical trials, the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute is the only cancer center between Sacramento and Seattle designated by the National Cancer Institute — an honor earned only by the nation's top cancer centers. The honor is shared among the more than 650 doctors, nurses, scientists and staff who work together at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute to reduce the impact of cancer.

About OHSU

The Oregon Health & Science University is the state's only health and research university, and Oregon's only academic health center. OHSU is Portland's largest employer and the fourth largest in Oregon (excluding government). OHSU’s size contributes to its ability to provide many services and community support activities not found anywhere else in the state. OHSU serves patients from every corner of the state, and is a conduit for learning for more than 3,400 students and trainees. OHSU is the source of more than 200 community outreach programs that bring health and education services to every county in the state.
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