Tongue and throat cancer used to be considered an old man's disease, with smokers and heavy drinkers being most at risk.
Because of the Human Papilloma Virus, the patient profile is changing. It's younger and including both women and men. Surgery can be disfiguring, but University of Washington doctors are using a new approach that promises a better quality of life.
For Lydia Miner, it started with a lump in her throat.
"Like a vitamin or a big pill that gotten stuck and it sort of came and went," said Miner.
It turned out to be tongue cancer. Her search for a solution led her to Dr. Eduardo Mendez at the University of Washington and the Davinci Robot.
With the Davinci Robot, the surgeon doesn't have to go near the patient, but rather controls the octopus-like arms from a remote console. Although the Davinci itself isn't new, it hasn't been approved for head and neck surgeries until now.
"We can do it in a minimally invasive way without any incisions in the head and neck and the exciting thing about it is that patients can expect to preserve their speech and their swallowing function long term," said Mendez.
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