Posted by Margaret Shepard (@margieshepard) · Nov 19, 2012
Laser microsurgery for throat cancer preserves voice, function
For years, Danny Snodgrass had trouble speaking. His local doctors attributed it to drainage issues. Eventually, an ear, nose and throat specialist ordered a biopsy. It came back positive for throat cancer.
Snodgrass, who had never smoked and drank alcohol only occasionally, was stunned. An online search for treatment options led him to Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., which offered a laser alternative to conventional surgery.
When Snodgrass arrived for a meeting with Mayo Clinic doctors, he was hoping to be told his cancer diagnosis was wrong. Instead, he learned his cancer was advanced and had spread into the lymph nodes of his neck.
The only bright spot came when Eric J. Moore, M.D., an ear, nose and throat surgeon, told Snodgrass he was a candidate for transoral laser microsurgery. Benefits of the laser procedure include a shorter recovery and greater preservation of normal speech and swallowing. Mayo Clinic surgeons have performed hundreds of the procedures.
"One of the great things is that Mayo has a high patient volume so we're able to identify patients like Mr. Snodgrass who are ideal for the laser procedure," Dr. Moore says.
Dr. Moore scheduled Snodgrass for transoral laser surgery after confirming that the tumor could be reached with an endoscope through his mouth. During surgery, Dr. Moore also made small incisions in Snodgrass' neck to remove his tumor-ridden lymph nodes.
Snodgrass recovered well from surgery, returning to Mayo Clinic weeks later for chemotherapy and radiation treatment to treat the cancerous lymph nodes. He credits his team of exceptional caregivers with propelling him to a speedy recovery.
"I owe it all to them," he says. "I'm convinced the hands of God are on Mayo Clinic. There's no doubt in my mind. I've never been so impressed with a group of people in my life."