, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 148-157

Robotic Surgery for Oropharynx Cancer: Promise, Challenges, and Future Directions

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Abstract

Epidemiologic studies have shown a rise in the incidence of oropharyngeal cancer without a corresponding increase in oral cavity cancers. These diverging trends are explained by human papilloma virus, which preferentially affects the oropharynx. Cancers resulting from this viral infection bear a better prognosis than those that are smoking-related. Treatment of oropharyngeal cancers has typically involved the use of radiation and chemotherapy to avoid the morbidity of mandibular splitting surgery. The use of transoral robotic surgery (TORS) has obviated the need for large-scale open approaches but still provides the pathologic staging data that is unavailable from non-surgical approaches. Although TORS is in its infancy, early functional and oncologic outcome data are promising. The complex management of oropharyngeal cancers should utilize the available treatment modalities to optimize outcomes and stratify patients to different treatment based on risk status.