Head and neck cancers are often difficult to diagnose and
also can be hard to treat.
Fortunately, advances in robotic surgery are changing the landscape of
surgery for head and neck cancers.
Coming up, two UW Medicine Health System head and neck surgeons and
their patient will discuss the advantages of the latest in robotic surgery,
next on Patient Power.
Hello. Welcome to Patient
Power, sponsored by UW Medicine Health System. I'm Andrew Schorr.
Well, as a cancer survivor of course I know how traumatic it can be
emotionally. Sometimes you need
chemo, radiation, surgery. Well,
imagine if you have cancer of the head and neck and need surgery, that can be
quite traumatic of course. But what
if there's a less invasive way, a more precise way, and to allow the doctors to
get at cancers that maybe they otherwise could not get at with other types of
surgery. We're going to hear about
that in this program today.
And I'd like you to meet someone who has benefitted from robotic
surgery for head and neck cancer, specifically cancer that was found on his
tongue. And that's Chuck Ross, who
is 64 years old, from Wenatchee.
He was in materials handling for many years there, and then back in 2009
he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and he had robotic surgery for
that. Well, while he was having
the surgery the surgeon noticed that there was a spot on his tongue and said,
you know, I don't like that. You
need to get that checked out. And
when the conclusion was that it was cancer on his tongue he came to the
University of Washington and the head and neck surgeons there who by then had
been doing robotic surgery to help people in a much less invasive way.
Chuck, you had robotic surgery for prostate. The idea of having it for a second cancer, and nobody wants
a second cancer, that seemed to be the way to go for you?
Oh, absolutely, and the way Dr. Mendez explained it
to me, that was the best way to go that I could see.
Now, the advantage would be, am I right, to get it and do
the surgery and maybe spare you in your case radiation and chemo and kind of
the precision of getting in a small place, right?
Yes. And I
was very fortunate. I had a level
one cancer, and it was caught early which I think saved me a lot of pain and
So the fact that the prostate cancer surgeon spotted
something unusual on your tongue, that was, can we say, fortuitous?
It may have gone a lot longer in not noticing it.
And you understand that if head and neck cancer advances
it's a rough deal.
Oh, yes. And
as Dr. Mendez explained to me what they may or may not have had to do
without the robotics would have been a lot more severe.
So you had the robotic surgery. And how long were you in the hospital for that?
I was in the hospital two days.
And then I know they went back and had lymph node surgery,
and that was a hospitalization of a few more days?
Yes. That was
four days in the hospital.
Now, this was in 2010. We're doing this program in 2011, many months later. How you are you doing?
I'm doing excellent.
It couldn't be better. I've
got??my swallowing is good. My
taste is back. Yes, everything is
Now, with any kind of surgery, and certainly surgery on
the tongue, you did have some swallowing issues for a short time, correct?
Yes, that's correct.
About two weeks' period of time that I was on liquids, and there was
some pain, especially the first, oh, I'd say week, and swelling, but after that
it subsided and it went well.
So, Chuck, do you feel that you were a lucky guy, maybe
with the prostate surgery as well as now with the tongue surgery, that robotic
surgery was available? So if you
were going to have these cancers that, in a way, bad thing to have but good
time to have them?
Oh, I think the stars were in align for me when all this
transpired, with the prostate surgery and what happened there and then with the
da Vinci robot being available with the laser surgery was the best thing that
could have happened as far as I'm concerned with what happened to me.