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Study Shows Benefits of Removing Tongue Cancer Through Mouth

Transoral (through the mouth) laser microsurgery to remove cancer at the base of the tongue is as effective as more invasive open surgery and may improve quality of life after surgery, according to a new study by Rush University Medical Center.

In the past, the tongue base could be safely accessed only through the neck using complex open surgical approaches that often resulted in a lot of postoperative pain, as well as speech and swallowing impairment. With transoral surgery, surgeons use specially designed instruments to carefully remove the tumor in small pieces. This minimizes disruption to nearby tissues, reducing pain and risk of complications.

The study looked at results for 71 patients who had transoral surgery for squamous cell carcinoma of the base of the tongue. The overall two-year survival rate was 90 percent, comparable to open surgery. The majority of patients experienced little or no pain and were able to speak and swallow much sooner and better than patients who had open surgery.

“And because the procedure is so precise, patients may require less chemotherapy or radiation therapy after surgery to kill any remaining tumor cells,” says head and neck surgeon Guy Petruzzelli, MD, PhD, the study’s lead investigator.

 

Rush Among Nation’s Top Hospitals

Rush University Medical Center recently earned rankings in nine specialty areas in the July 2009 “America’s Best Hospitals” issue of U.S.News & World Report, which annually rates the top hospitals across the country for 16 medical specialties. Rush ranked higher than any other hospital in Illinois in orthopedics (No. 12 in the nation) and had eight additional programs in the top 50: neurology and neurosurgery, No. 12; geriatrics, No. 24; gastroenterology, No. 26; kidney disease, No. 29; heart and heart surgery, No. 30; urology, No. 31; gynecology, No. 50; and ear, nose and throat, No. 50.

Only 174 of 4,861 hospitals in the United States — about 3 percent — scored high enough this year to rank in even a single specialty.

 

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