Complete tumor removal is critical in curing head and neck cancer. If any cancerous cells are left behind, many of these cancers may recur. At the UCLA Head and Neck Cancer Program (HNCP), our surgeons use preoperative imaging to assess the size and locations of tumors. Accurate imaging helps ensure that they remove all the cancerous tissue.
The ultimate goal of cancer tumor surgery is “clear margins,” a complete removal of the tumor. Our surgeons are highly skilled in achieving clear margins using imaging and their own training and experience.
Surgeons balance the goal of achieving clear margins with minimizing the risk of damage to nearby healthy tissue. This concern can limit the amount of tissue that may be safely removed.
To overcome this problem, our surgeons have developed a novel, noninvasive imaging system that can distinguish between cancerous and normal tissue during surgery. Unique to UCLA, this intraoperative instrument allows us to more accurately determine true cancer margins.
We have engineered this system to clearly identify tumor tissue and normal tissue. This tool helps our surgeons remove as much of the tumor as possible without damaging healthy tissue, which improves our patients’ outcomes.