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Glenda Wilson was a healthy 61-year-old woman who did all the right things — didn’t smoke, didn’t drink alcohol, and stayed busy running a thriving antique business.
While vacationing with her husband in Florida, Glenda was getting ready to go out to the pool and noticed that her neck felt swollen. She turned to her husband to see if he noticed anything odd. He immediately noticed the swelling, and that’s when her life changed forever.
That day marked the beginning of a three-year ordeal that involved being diagnosed with myeloma and nephritis, and getting a bone marrow transplant. During that time, she also developed a mass in the back of her throat.
Her doctors weren’t sure if the lump was related to her previous conditions. Imaging studies showed what was potentially a cancerous tumor. However, the tumor was not cancerous, but because of its location at the base of her tongue, it had to be removed.
Over a span of three years, Glenda underwent three unsuccessful surgeries to remove the tumor. Using traditional surgical techniques, the surgeons were unable to reach the mass because it was so far down her throat. Their instruments simply couldn’t reach it.
Finally, her doctor referred Glenda to UPMC's Center for Robotic Head and Neck Surgery where she met with Dr. Umamaheswar Duvvuri.
Dr. Duvvuri is a specialist in using Trans Oral Robotic Surgery (TORS). This sophisticated robotic platform allows surgeons to perform minimally invasive surgery for complex procedures similar to the one needed for Glenda’s tumor.
During TORS, the surgeon moves the arms of the robot while viewing a magnified, high-resolution, 3D image of the surgical site.
Compared to traditional neck surgery, TORS makes a smaller incision, resulting in:
Where prior surgeries caused bruising on her face and cuts on her tongue, the TORS surgery left no bleeding or scarring. The precision of the TORS surgery allowed Dr. Duvvuri to remove the entire tumor.
Glenda was able to go home the day after surgery.
“The only reason they had me stay overnight was because I had to drive two hours to get home,” said Glenda, who lives in Farmington, PA.
She had some soreness after the surgery, but her recovery went well.
After a six-month follow-up visit to Dr. Duvvuri, he said she didn’t need to make another appointment because she was in the clear. That came as a great relief to Glenda.
She continues to work at her antiques business, though she puts in fewer hours due to some fatigue from the bone marrow transplant.
Through it all, she maintains a positive attitude, and is grateful to the doctors who were able to remove her tumor with such minimal side effects.
“I’m so glad that everything worked out so well,” said Glenda. “I’m back to working at my business, and don’t have any signs or symptoms of the tumor. It’s wonderful.”
Glenda's treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.
UPMC Center for Robotic Head and Neck Surgery
200 Lothrop Street, Third floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15213