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What is Trans-oral Robotic Surgery (TORS)?

Trans-oral Robotic Surgery (TORS) is a modern surgical technique that seeks to remove head and neck cancers by accessing the mouth with the use of a robotic device. 

With this latest robotic technology, surgery can be more precisely targeted, reducing unwanted side effects, particularly in relation to swallowing and speech.

Convential treatment for these cancers would normally involve radiotherapy, chemotherapy, surgery or a combination of all of these options. 

Transoral surgery in the mouth and throat can be extremely complex, and the surgeon needs to consider where the cancer is located and how aggressively it behaves.

TORS addresses the challenge faced by a surgeon who has to work within a tight operating area space, striving to avoid delicate nerves and major blood vessels.

What is TORS used to treat?

Rates of throat cancer have increased by approximately 30% in the past 25 years. Much of this rise may be attributed to particular variants of the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV can also cause skin or genital warts, while other strains cause anal and cervical cancers.

Until a tumour occurs, the infection is typically symptomless. Sometimes a patient with HPV may present with a cancerous neck lump when the primary site is not immediately obvious. This is despite a specialist head and neck assessment and multiple imaging investigations.

TORS is used by surgeons to treat:

  • tonsil and tongue cancer
  • salivary gland tumours
  • metastatic retropharyngeal thyroid cancer and malignant melanoma,
  • recurrent throat cancers (which were previously treated by chemoradiotherapy)

TORS has also been used in situations where the patient's primary cancer is 'unknown’, helping to identify the source.

TORS specialists have used the robotic technique to remove an orbital tumour while preserving the patient's eye and their vision. Conventional surgery would have had an impact on the patient's sight.

What happens during the surgery?

With the patient asleep under general anaesthetic, the surgeon controls the robot with his hands and feet.

One of the robot arms holds a 3D camera, while two other arms hold tiny instruments that are passed through the mouth into the throat, voice box or to the top of the food pipe. 

The surgeon sits in a console in the operating room with an immersive, magnified, three-dimensional view of the target region and manipulates the instruments in ways impossible with the human hand alone.

This allows the surgeon to hone in on the tumour and remove it more precisely, which may reduce the amount of radiotherapy subsequently needed. In some instances, it completely avoids the need for chemotherapy and radiotherapy altogether.

Treatment cost

The London Clinic offers affordable, competitive self-pay packages for certain treatments.

Patients have the option to spread the cost of treatment with Chrysalis Finance.

Please call +44 (0)20 3613 7502 to speak to our helpful team to find out more and to book an appointment.

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