I am going to go out on a limb and assume most of you reading this blog do not know anything or very little about HPV… Human Papillomavirus. Many dentists and hygienists across the country are now educated about this cancer and are able to conduct an examination to assist in detecting signs of HPV and other head and neck cancers.
In May of 2016 my husband, Michael, was diagnosed with HPV cancer located on the base of his tongue. In January he discovered a small lump on the side of his neck while shaving. It was still there in March when we received a phone call from his brother-in-law, Jim. He called to tell us he had been diagnosed with HPV cancer located on his tonsil. He had discovered a lump on his neck and several weeks later his wife persuaded him to see a doctor. Michael made his appointment the next day.Fast forward six months…both men had several surgeries to remove the lump, remove lymph nodes and attempt to remove the cancer. Jim was treated with 7 weeks of chemo and radiation. Michael was fortunate and had only 7 weeks of radiation.
Radiation Side Effects Were Many
Immediately the side effects were obvious. Everything tasted strange and not like food at all. Michael was losing weight and his Oncologist insisted on a feeding tube (percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG)). By week 5 he had one inserted into his stomach. It remained for 6 weeks after his treatment. He was able to get plenty of nutrition, never feel hungry and maintain his weight, although 15 pounds lighter than when he started.
Excess mucus and painful coughing were next. “Sunburn” from the radiation on his neck became very obvious and sensitive. He was approaching week 7 and the radiation dosage was increased. Michael became very tired, a bit depressed and continuing to deal with the excess mucus and sunburn.
Finally, he completed his last radiation treatment. Michael’s radiation team was amazing throughout his treatment. They encouraged him to move forward when he wanted to throw in the towel. They were his rock! They were always able to say the thing he needed to hear and other times just being good listeners. Always providing amazing acts of kindness! Angels!
Now, 9 months since his last treatment, he has made great strides. He is cancer free! And so is Jim! Both guys endured the treatments and the recovery and are returning to better health every day! Food is beginning to taste like it should with just a few disappointments. They have regained some weight, returned to normal activities and so very thankful and humbled.
Michael’s Oncologist told us that an HPV cancer diagnosis in men, between the ages of 50 and 62, has become almost common. I encourage you to learn as much as you can about this cancer, especially if you have children between the ages of 11 and 26. An HPV vaccine is available.
Linda Miles, in 2012, Co-Founded Oral Cancer Cause, a 501 nonprofit that financially assists oral cancer patients during their diagnosis and medical treatment. After 50 plus years in dentistry, OCC practices will help Linda and her partner, Robin Morrison, leave a legacy with my patients in their oral cancer recovery process…This is their proudest professional achievement.
Ignorance is NOT bliss.