Pioneering Robotic Surgery – Penn State Hershey Medical Center

[ Background music ] >> Narrator: James Bittenbender is retired
now but for years he made his living as a cook in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. A smoker
for almost 50 years he was diagnosed recently with cancer of the upper portion of his voice
box. Head and neck cancers account for approximately 5% of all cancers in the United States. They
are more common in men and in people over 50 years old. For James Bittenbender it all
started with a scratchy throat. >> It kept getting worse and worse and my
people kept telling me it would go away but it didn’t go away. So, finally I told my family
doctor all over again, look, you’ve gotta do something with this throat. >> Narrator: His next move James came to Penn
State Hershey to see Dr. David Goldenberg. >> Head and neck cancer when it first appears
often has very subtle signs that mimic nothing more than laryngitis or a cold or a sore,
anything that persists for more than a couple of weeks especially in a patient with a history
of smoking and drinking needs to be taken seriously. >> Narrator: Dr. Goldenberg now uses robotic
surgery technology to remove head and neck cancers in a way never done before and James
Bittenbender’s cancer is a good candidate for the new procedure saving him a lot of
time, pain and possible disfigurement. >> There was a time where we’d have to go
in and take out the entire patient’s voice box and in those cases the patient might need
a tracheotomy or would not be able to speak or swallow adequately. If we were to do a
similar approach to this, we have had to open up the patient’s neck widely almost from ear
to ear. >> Narrator: Not anymore. With the help of
robot assisted technology surgeons can go through the patient’s mouth to remove tumors
which is especially effective with cancers of the upper portion of the throat. >> The instruments that actually go in the
mouth are about the width of a pencil. They can move and hold things. They’re an extension
of our hands, they act like our hands. >> Narrator: Dr. Goldenberg is continuing
to pioneer new uses for robotic surgery. He recently removed a cancerous tumor near the
base of a patient’s skull through a very small incision in the neck. The first surgery of
its kind. >> Narrator: The future for retired cook James
Bittenbender is to him nothing short of miraculous. What started as a scratchy throat that wouldn’t
go away was diagnosed as throat cancer. Using robotic surgery his doctor was able to remove
the tumor through the mouth. He will be back to start chemo and radiation and work with
a full multidisciplinary team dedicated to treating head and neck cancers and though
he is grateful, he’s also disappointed in himself and he wants this heart-felt message
to be heard by all those who continue to smoke. >> Stop now while you’re in good shape. Don’t
end up like me. I was too damn dumb to listen to anybody. If I had listened long ago, I
wouldn’t have to do this. If you’re doing it, quit.

Leave a Reply

(*) Required, Your email will not be published