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Sanford Offers New Robotic Surgery for Tonsil and Tongue Cancer

Two surgeons are the first in the region to use new technology.  

(Sioux Falls, SD) – Sanford Health patients with tumors of the tonsil and base of tongue are now being treated with a groundbreaking new robotic surgical procedure.

Surgeons John Lee, MD and W. Chad Spanos, MD, who specialize in head and neck cancer, are the first in the region to offer an innovative new technology approved within the last year by the Food and Drug Administration.
This innovative procedure, called transoral robotic surgery (TORS), allows surgeons to operate on tumors in the tonsil or base of tongue without having to make incisions in the neck. Doctors Lee and Spanos are able to remove tumors using a less intrusive approach, entering though the mouth with avoidance of potentially disfiguring neck surgery altogether

As Dr. Lee indicates, key benefits are realized by patients both during and following surgery. “Sanford cancer patients are already benefiting from this new surgical method, which can be carried out with significantly less blood loss than traditional oral surgery and far fewer effects on speech and swallowing,” said Dr. Lee.

TORS uses the daVinci surgical robotic instrument, which allows direct access through the patient’s mouth, which mimics the movements made by surgeons using a command center several feet away. Doctors Lee and Spanos use a three-dimensional computer screen which shows a magnified view of the surgical site, allowing them to see the surgery more closely than human vision allows.

The new technology, according to Dr. Spanos, holds the promise of fewer side effects from cancer treatment. “Patients treated with TORS may require lower radiation doses and possibly avoid the need for chemotherapy if the tumor can be completely removed accurately using this technology,” said Dr. Spanos. 

About Sanford Cancer Center
As a leader in the field, Sanford Cancer Center offers a unique, full continuum of care with advanced state-of-the-art treatment methods while maintaining highly personalized care that focuses on the emotional, social and spiritual needs of cancer patients and their families. In keeping with a commitment to excellence, Sanford continues to expand its multidisciplinary approach to cancer care as well as develop its destination cancer center by adding physicians, services, technology and facilities. As one of only 30 sites in the nation in the National Cancer Institute's Community Cancer Centers Program (NCCCP), the level of care experienced by patients at Sanford Cancer Center is unmatched by any cancer program in our region.

For more information about Sanford Cancer Center, please visit or call (605) 328-8003.

Stacy Bauer Jones | Media Relations Manager | Sioux Falls Region
605-328-7056 or 605-366-2432 |