Eight years later, Paul Schmolke has had no cancer recurrence after two robotic surgeries and radiation therapy 

Paul Schmolke of Dover, New Jersey, had minor surgery to implant a device to treat hearing loss eight years ago. After his procedure, he noticed that his lymph nodes were swollen. 

“When my swollen lymph nodes didn’t go away, my doctor sent me for a lymph node biopsy which showed cancer,” said Paul. 

Further tests revealed that Paul had throat cancer that spread to his lymph nodes. 

“My doctor recommended an oncologist in New York City, but they couldn’t see me for a month,” said Paul. “I didn’t want to wait that long, and I didn’t know where to go.” 

However, when Paul told his adult daughter about his diagnosis, she knew just what to do.   

“My daughter had previously received cancer care at Hackensack University Medical Center,” said Paul. “She made one phone call to her oncologist, and I had an appointment three days later.”

A Treatment Plan 

Paul met with Brian Benson, M.D., an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) physician at the John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack Meridian Hackensack University Medical Center who specializes in robotic head and neck surgery. 

“From what Dr. Benson told me, I knew [robotic surgery] was the best choice for me — especially since it can eliminate significant scarring, large incisions and trauma,” said Paul. “Dr. Benson also said that they found my cancer early, so it would be easier to treat.” 

Paul had his transoral robotic surgery (TORS) procedure in February 2013. During the surgery, Dr. Benson used the robotic surgical system to remove the tumor in Paul’s throat and cancerous lymph nodes in his neck. 

The robotic surgical system has three arms that hold small surgical instruments and a fourth arm that holds a small video camera. The instruments and camera were inserted into Paul’s mouth and a small incision in his neck. The camera transmits a magnified 3D video image of the surgical area onto a screen at the surgical console where the surgeon sits and controls the robot. 

Paul stayed in the hospital for two days after the procedure. He also had to stay on a liquid diet for about a week. 

“I had no problems, no bleeding and hardly any pain — [the surgery] was quick and easy,” said Paul. 

However, Paul’s biopsy results from the surgery revealed additional cancerous tissue. A few weeks later, Paul headed back into the operating room with Dr. Benson for a second successful procedure. 

Cancer-Free Since 2013 

After completing radiation treatment a few months after surgery, Paul received the news that he was cancer-free.

“Since I finished my treatment, I’ve had no recurrence and no problems,” said Paul, now 83. “I would recommend Hackensack University Medical Center to anyone who has any type of cancer — I was very happy with my outcome, and the doctors are great.”