Meet the Doctor: Paul van der Sloot, MD | by Jeannette Moninger

Posted on Mon, Oct 7, 2019

Otolaryngologist and head and neck surgeon Dr. Paul van der Sloot joined the Head and Neck Cancer Care Center at Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at Swedish Medical Center in August. He treats head and neck tumors and specializes in transoral robotic surgery and microvascular reconstructive procedures.

What type of head and neck procedures do you perform?

Surgeries range from biopsies to tumor removals to reconstructive surgery. I’m thankful that my training allows me to remove life-threatening cancerous tumors while also restoring a patient’s quality of life through restorative surgery. For example, I can treat an oral cavity cancer that involves the removal of soft tissue, jawbone and all or part of the tongue. As a reconstructive surgeon, I can take soft tissue, including skin and muscle, as well as bone from other parts of the body to rebuild lost tissue. In this way, I’m able to restore function and appearance.

How do you use robotic technology to perform surgeries?

Certain types of tumors, such as oropharyngeal cancer, are difficult to access because they form in the base of the tongue or tonsil area. In the past, surgeons often had to break the jaw to gain access and remove these tumors. With robotic technology, I can use a remote console to manipulate a small binocular camera and tiny surgical instruments attached to robotic arms into the mouth. This technology enables me to safely remove a tumor from a very confined space with minimal trauma to the patient. Patients have a much easier recovery. My partner, Dr. Andrew Nemechek, uses a microscope and laser technology to remove tumors. These complementary techniques allow us to treat a wide range of patients.

What is oropharyngeal cancer?

This cancer develops in the back of the throat or oropharynx, which includes the base of the tongue and tonsils. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the human papillomavirus (HPV) causes 70% of these cancers. There are more than 200 types of HPV, making it the most common sexually transmitted infection in America. Most people exposed to HPV don’t know they are infected and never have any problems. However, certain HPV types can cause cancer decades after exposure. We now have a vaccine that can protect against HPV and therefore prevent this cancer. The CDC recommends this vaccine for children before they become sexually active, but even sexually active adults can benefit. I recommend talking to your doctor about it. 

askSARAH helpline

Committed to ensuring you have the right resources close to home, our nurses are available 24/7 and all calls are confidential. Contact askSARAH at (303) 253-3225 or fill out the askSARAH contact form to connect directly to a nurse who can help you today.



Leave a Comment

Please be respectful while leaving comments. All comments are subject to removal by the moderator.

Your Comment: