UR Medical Center laryngologist C. Michael Haben succeeded in performing a high-tech, precise laser surgery on a throat cancer patient – the first of its kind in Upstate and Western New York.

“I think this is a great alternative for patients who are usually only offered radiation as a treatment option,” Haben said. “We now offer this surgical procedure as a first-line definitive treatment to patients at the cancer center we are developing.”

The larynx, or the voice box, as it is commonly known, is an organ that contains the vocal cords and is located in the neck, beginning at the “Adam’s apple.”

Until recently, treatment for this kind of cancer included radiation therapy or radical surgery.

If the radiation treatment failed, or the patient went into a relapse, the larynx would have to be surgically removed.

As a result, the patient would not only lose his voice, but would also have to breathe through a hole in his neck.

The new surgery is performed using microscopic digital imaging and a laser beam aimed at the sensitive area with intense precision to destroy the tumor.

“Laser surgery is minimally invasive, and people can keep their voice box,” Haben said. “Moreover, it is a one-day surgery, and patients often go home the same day, as opposed to six weeks of daily radiation and extended hospitalization, if they have to lose their voice box. It is also pain -free.”

Haben believes that this new option offers patients peace of mind, as the surgery can confirm if the tumor has been excised in its entirety or not, – something that is impossible with radiation.

“Patients can also repeat the surgery as many times as required, if a relapse occurs,” he said.

Haben is the only board-certified, fellowship-trained laryngologist within a 500-mile radius.

He was trained under Wolfgang Steiner, who first invented this procedure in Germany.

“Steiner is the pioneer of laser surgery in the 1970s,” Haben said. “He invited me to study the technique when I had an opportunity to meet him during a conference in Washington.”

Haben is optimistic about the future of the technique and hopes to increase awareness about this option.

“Right now, we want to build upon our multidisciplinary cancer center that offers treatments for various types of cancer,” he said. “I hope that we can educate the entire community of physicians and cancer patients of this one-day surgical option.”

Krishnan can be reached at skrishnan@campustimes.org.

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