The Sentara Cancer Network partners with Eastern Virginia Medical School head and neck surgeons and researchers to advance treatments, as well as the only dedicated head and neck oncology team in the Hampton Roads region. The team features:  three fellowship-trained surgeons, a microvascular reconstruction specialist, a fellowship-trained pathologist, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, endocrinologists, neuroradiologists, dentists, a licensed social worker, a dietician and oncology research nurses.

These experts meet weekly to plan treatment for 100% of all head and neck cases, and share information so that they can give patients the best care possible. In 2010, they were the first in Virginia to introduce TransOral Robotic Surgery (TORS) at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. TORS is a minimally invasive surgical procedure for removing tumors in the throat and voice box (larynx). Instead of making an incision, the surgeons work through the patient’s mouth to remove tumors.

They use the da Vinci robotic surgical system with TORS, and the system makes it possible to see the area that needs surgery clearly and without making any external surgical cuts. Patients appreciate this because there is less scarring, a lower risk of infection and blood transfusion, easier swallowing afterwards and a quicker return to everyday living. The Sentara Cancer Network continues to advance our technology to better treat our patients.

In discussing the form of treatment, the doctor will consider several factors, including the stage and location of the cancer, the patient's ability to talk, eat and breathe normally, and the patient's age and general health.

Treatment options may include:

  • Surgery

    The surgeon may remove the cancer and some of the healthy tissue around it. Lymph nodes in the neck may also be removed (lymph node dissection), if the doctor suspects that the cancer has spread. Surgery may be followed by radiation treatment.

  • TransOral Robotic Surgery

    TransOral Robotic Surgery (TORS) uses the precision instruments and fiber-optic camera of the daVinci™ robotic surgery system  to access tumors through small incisions in the back of the mouth. Daniel Karakla, M.D., FACS, with Eastern Virginia Medical School, is the first surgeon in Hampton Roads to perform TORS using the daVinci robot at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. Prospective studies on TORS patients indicate quicker recovery of swallowing and speech abilities after surgery and shorter hospital stays.

  • Radiation Oncology

    Radiation oncology treatment involves the use of high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external radiation therapy). It can also come from radioactive materials placed directly into or near the area where the cancer cells are found (internal radiation therapy or radiation implant). Radioactive iodine may be used in the treatment of thyroid cancer.

  • Chemotherapy

    Chemotherapy is used to kill cancer cells throughout the body. The side effects of chemotherapy depend on the drugs that are given. In general, anticancer drugs affect rapidly growing cells, including blood cells that fight infection, cells that line the mouth and the digestive tract, and cells in hair follicles.

  • Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

    Physicians have long recognized the healing benefits of increasing the oxygen level in a patient's bloodstream. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy increases the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream and tissue. The increased oxygen level can result in enhanced white blood cell activity to promote healing as well as start the formation of new blood vessels for increased circulation. The medical treatment may be used to treat complications of radiation or surgery.


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