Now that actor Michael Douglas says he was treated for tongue cancer, this lesser known head and neck cancer is being talked about. If diagnosed early, there is a high cure rate, but,those with advanced or late stage disease may fear the cure more than the ailment.
Dr. Steven Mamus of Cancer Center Sarasota Manatee said, "If you get an area of tenderness, or an area of ulceration that does not heal, and goes on for weeks and months, that should be a red flag. If you have something that bleeds from you tongue, that should be a red flag. if you have pain in your mouth, if you have pain in your tongue, that does not go away for weeks, or months at a time."
These are all symptoms that you may have cancer of the tongue. And lifestyle may determine if you are at higher risk of getting the disease.
"Tobacco is a risk factor, alcohol is a risk factor and in some cases HPV which is a virus is a factor," said Dr. Mamus. "If you have an early, relatively superficial tongue cancer, then what we're talking about is removing just a small portion of the tongue."
Mamus explained that If no lymph nodes are present, this may be accompanied with radiation, but advanced tongue or oral cavity cancers may also require more drastic surgery along with chemotherapy.
Sarasota resident Betty Brown's horse trainer and good friend Rodney Schriver was only fifty-three years-old when he died of tongue cancer. "His roommate made him dinner and he couldn't really eat at all," said Brown. "I guess that they said that he would probably lose some of his tongue, and he wouldn't be able to talk, and he did not want that."
Brown said Schriver had opted to go a homeopathic route and fought a brave battle, even riding the week before he succumbed.
Dr. Mamus explained that in general with the cure rates with head and neck cancer are really very good, it obviously depends on whether or not its an early tongue cancer or whether there's lymph nodes involved.
Carl Ditkovitch said his stage three throat cancer came on fast. "I came home from work one day, my throat was so constricted and I couldn't even swallow."
Thirty five radiation treatments later he is in remission. He said, "I stayed in the hospital for five days, doing twenty four hour chemo."
And this is what he wants you to know "There's all kind of hope for people out there."
Although the traditional surgery for treating advanced tongue cancer can have a significant impact on a patient's looks and speech. The cure rate if caught early is high, about 70 percent.