New MCCG Robotics Procedure Helps Throat Cancer Patients

7:20 PM, Oct 22, 2013   |    comments
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30,000.

That's how many people are affected by throat cancer each year in the United States.

71-year-old Bobby Upchurch was one of them. 

"I  had a mouth full of blood, so I come on to the emergency room, and that's when they determined I had throat cancer," Upchurch said.

Upchurch was the Medical Center's first patient to get throat surgery through the new Transoral Robotic Surgery procedure.

The Medical Center used the daVinci robot since 2007.

But August was the first time they used it to operate on a patient with throat cancer.

Without the robot, Dr. Bobby Newman says he would have to cut the jawbone to get access to the back part of the tongue, causing a longer and more painful recovery.

Because of a 3-D camera and the robot's ability to reach where human hands can't, Newman says, "there are fewer incisions and fewer areas to cause problems with swallowing."

The procedure isn't without controversy.

According to FDA's medical device database, it got reports of 500 accidents during robotic surgery since January of last year.

Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Research Center for Women & Families, says there's a lot of hype about the benefits of robotic procedure but not enough evidence to back it up.

"A lot of unanswered questions, and yet they're being promoted as if they're some fabulous improvement over traditional surgery," Zuckerman said.

Zuckerman also says doctors and hospitals are driven by financial reasons and a desire to feature the latest innovative technology. However, she says that technology isn't always proven to be better than traditional surgeries.

However, Dr. Newman says while technology will keep changing, it won't replace the need for a skilled surgeon.

"I think this is pushing the borders of surgery. It allows us to do our same surgery in a much better way," Newman said.

Follow 13WMAZ's Anita Oh on Twitter @anita_oh.

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