Head and Neck Cancer: Putting Patients First
Patients who suffer from a cancer of the tongue, throat, skin, or thyroid gland are unique. Because of the location of these tumors, the cost of treatment is often devastating, leaving patients unable to speak, eat, communicate, and socialize. Years ago the only goal of the head and neck oncologist was to eradicate the cancer, and the rate of suicide was high among head and neck cancer patients because the therapies were so ruinous to their quality of life.
Recently, however, specialists at The Mount Sinai Medical Center’s Tisch Cancer Institute have accomplished what was once unthinkable—achieving an optimal outcome that includes preserving function. Experts in our multidisciplinary Center for Head and Neck Cancer use minimally invasive robotic surgery and novel organ-preserving therapeutics not only to treat the disease but also to allow patients to continue their normal lives.
At the Forefront of Head and Neck Cancer Diagnosis and Robotic Surgery
Take the case of a 53-year-old food critic with a malignant tumor at the base of his tongue. One of his treatment options required using a stomach tube for nutrition while he received seven weeks of high-dose radiotherapy and intravenous chemotherapy—a treatment that would destroy his saliva glands and likely leave him unable to taste food.
At Mount Sinai, however, a team of translational researchers and physicians determined that his tumor was likely a result of the human papilloma virus (HPV), which could be optimally treated with TransOral Robotic Surgery. Eric M. Genden, MD, FACS, Chair of the Department of Otolaryngology (ENT), is a leader in the field of head and neck robotic surgery and has helped propel Mount Sinai’s cure rate with patients like this man to 90 percent. The two-hour surgery was performed without any external incisions, and the patient was discharged home the next day, eating and drinking. Four years later he remains cancer free.
Multidisciplinary Care Backed by Advanced Research
Mount Sinai’s Head and Neck Cancer team features 35 specialists from 12 different disciplines who come together to provide every patient with the benefit of a multidisciplinary approach. Each patient is evaluated by our specialists in a single visit. CT and MRI scans, biopsies, and a care plan can be initiated in one consultation. That means treatment can be instituted quickly, and the chance for a cure is significantly improved.
Unique to Mount Sinai is our Head and Neck Research Program, which aims to advance insights into head and neck cancer biology and develop strategies for treatment. This involves the understanding of the molecular, pathological, and immunological basis of head and neck cancers, and at Mount Sinai, we have a platform for rapid transformation of basic science discoveries into clinical trials.
Coordinating care and bringing our basic science teams together with our physicians has distinguished Mount Sinai’s Head and Neck Cancer Center. This clinical and research multidisciplinary approach means that we can translate our work seamlessly between the laboratory bench and the bedside, and that, in turn, means tremendous benefits for our patients.