Hearing that you have any form of cancer is devastating. We all know someone who has been diagnosed with cancer if in fact it wasn’t you.
I recall one former co-worker who used to smoke cigarettes and chew tobacco, until he was told he had throat cancer. His cancer required surgery, which was successful in removing the cancer, but the after effects of the surgery was devastating in his eyes. In order to get all of the cancer, which was in the upper regions of his throat, they ended up having to cut into the muscles that control the tongue and swallowing. The right side of his throat and mouth were deformed. Because of the damage to his tongue, he couldn’t talk but only babbled and he had a very difficult time eating, chewing and especially swallowing. He underwent a couple of years of intense therapy. He had to learn how to talk, chew food, and swallow the food without it going down into his lungs, causing him to choke and cough. The only good thing that came out of it was that he quit smoking and chewing, but only enduring years of agony caused by his caner surgery.
His story is more common than you may realize. Many people diagnosed with throat cancer end up undergoing surgery that leaves them with similar problems. Some of them have swollen cheeks and neck while others have cheeks and necks that are caved in as if something took a huge bite of them. Many throat cancer patients experience difficulty in talking, eating and swallowing after their throat surgery.
What if they could avoid the disastrous surgery they went through to get rid of their throat cancer?
Three hospitals in the United States are trying a new treatment option for throat cancer, one of which the University of Cincinnati Cancer Institute, about half an hour north from where I live:
“Local doctors are among the first in the country to test a potential new therapy to fight cancer that could change outcomes in ways never possible — until now.”
“‘What they described to me was, if we have to do surgery, which would be a last resort, there’s a very good likelihood you may not be able to speak again,’ said throat cancer survivor Tony Duggan.”
“After a diagnosis four years ago, Duggan says he is one of the lucky ones. Not only now is he cancer-free, but he’s avoided some extensive surgeries to have to rebuild his tongue to be able to speak again or to eat solid food again.”
“‘But now, something new being studied by Dr. Trisha Wise-Draper and Dr. Alice Tang at the UC Cancer Institute could help many others with head and neck cancer reduce these odds too’.”
“‘It looks like a Band-Aid, but it’s actually a nanoparticle patch,’ said Dr. Wise-Draper. ‘It holds a chemo-therapeutic in it called cisplatin, which is something we commonly give to head and neck cancer patients through the IV…The Band-Aid will sit on top of the tumor and then the cisplatin will be absorbed into the tumor directly’.”
If this patch lives up to expectations, it would make a huge world of difference for people with throat cancer. It could save their ability to talk, eat and swallow, let alone the disfiguring that happens with so many of them due to surgery.