Actor Michael Douglas recently stunned a television audience with the announcement that he has “late stage IV throat cancer.”
Actually, “throat cancer” isn’t a medical term. Several different kinds of cancer can involve different parts of the throat and mouth.
Michael Douglas says he has a walnut-sized tumor at the base of his tongue. That’s an oropharyngeal cancer.
Why do people get it? Well, as I have written before, half of us will get some kind of cancer in our lifetime. He just got this one. But the known risk factors are smoking and drinking – not so much separately but bad when both come together.
However doctors are seeing a sudden general rise in oropharyngeal cases. Not all smoke and drink. Some victims do neither.
Almost certainly it’s due to the human papillomavirus — HPV, the sexually transmitted virus best known as a cause of cervical cancer and genital warts. Unfortunately, that will call for mass inoculations of Gardasil, from the fools or flunkeys who claim this will help.
Gardasil is a dangerous vaccine and shouldn’t be given even to horses and pigs, never mind humans.
Many of us not only survived but thrived through the “sexual revolution.” We have enjoyed the resulting frank and liberating sex, but are now being faced with some unanticipated results of that revolution. More and more cancers are found to be virus-mediated. The trouble is there are often decades between the infection and the tumor.
If caught in its early stages, this “throat cancer” can be cured 85% of the time by surgery or radiation. But sadly for Douglas (and Catherine), his doctors have diagnosed “late stage IV” cancer. It’s not good.
“For the advanced stage IV cancers, it depends on the situation with the lymph nodes in the neck,” Har-El says. “There is over a 60% chance of remission if it has not spread to the lymph nodes. But if it already has spread to the lymph nodes in the neck, the odds of remission are more like 40% or 30%.”
Douglas says his cancer has spread to his head and neck, but that his doctors say his odds of survival are 80%. Some of that is just pet talk. But people have beaten the most deadly odds. Let’s see if Douglas can.
What To Do To Protect Yourself From Throat Cancer
Get checked if you develop any obvious symptoms:
- Pain in the throat pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Ear pain (which is actually pain from the base of the tongue referred to the ear)
- Bleeding in the mouth or throat
- Hoarseness, especially persisting 3 weeks or more
- A lump in the throat, or the feeling that something is stuck in the throat
Even if it ends up that you have something stupidly ordinary in the end if you smoke and drink it’s worth a trip to the doctor to get checked out. Let him take on the hassle of figuring out whether you should be worried. It’s not your job to re-assure yourself when he’s the one who is the expert!
You can visit the National Cancer Institute website for some additional information on oropharyngeal cancers.