Innovative cancer surgery saving lives, faces

March 14, 2011 9:48:06 AM PDT
Lymphangioma is a mass that commonly occurs in the head and neck area.

It's classified as a birth defect and is also known as cystic hygroma. The facts are simple : 90% of all lymphangioma cases occur in children less than 2 years of age and develop while in the womb. A common symptom of lymphangioma is a neck mass found at birth, or discovered later in an infant after an upper respiratory tract infection. Chest x-ray, ultrasound and CT scans are all tools used to test and diagnose lymphangioma. (SOURCE:

TREATMENT: Once discovered, completely removing the tumor is the ideal goal. However, lymphangioma has been known to spread to other neck structures, making complete removal impossible. When complete removal is not possible, lymphangioma commonly returns. Head and neck tumor treatments often involve a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. In many cases, surgery presents the highest chance of cure; but disfigures the face with an almost ear-to-ear incision across the throat or splitting the jaw. Complications of surgery include bleeding, damage to the neck caused by surgery, infection and return of lymphangioma. Other treatments have been attempted with only limited success including chemotherapy medications, injection of sclerosis medications, radiation therapy and steroids. (SOURCE:

NEW, LESS INVASIVE TREATMENT: FDA approved transoral robotic surgery (TORS ) can treat malignant and benign tumors of the mouth, voice box, tonsil, tongue and other parts of the throat in a less invasive manner. This robotic technique maintains functions like speech and swallowing, while traditional surgery would result in speech and swallowing deficits. (SOURCE:

APPLES TO ORANGES: TORS is a generally safer treatment than traditional lymphangioma surgery. Blood loss has been found to be very low in the majority of TORS patients with no one requiring a blood transfusion. In comparison, traditional surgery approaches have a much higher risk of requiring blood transfusions as well as an overall higher average of blood loss. Furthermore, the overall stay, regardless of surgeon preference, has been shorter for TORS patients than for those who would have otherwise undergone an open approach, with most patients staying between 5 and 7 days. (SOURE:


Stephanie Crayton
Media Relations / Broadcast Manager
UNC Health Care