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Reflections
February 16, 2009

Neck CancerA Physician's Personal Experience

Author Affiliations
 

ELLIOTABEMAYORMD, PhD

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2009;135(2):118. doi:10.1001/archoto.2008.529

Learning that I had hypopharyngeal cancer shook me to my core. I had to accept for the first time that I am not invincible and that life has an end. Suddenly, I was faced with the potential beginning of the end. Even though the small cancer (T1N0M0) in the retropharynx was surgically removed and I received local radiation, I was uncertain about my future. I slowly recovered from the radiation adverse effects and gradually believed that I was actually cured. However, after 20 months I had a local recurrence (T2N0M0) at a different location (right pyriform sinus). Unfortunately, my surgeons were unable to completely remove the tumor by laser after 3 attempts. At that point, I became frustrated and exhausted (emotionally and physically) and elected to undergo complete pharyngolaryngectomy with flap reconstruction at a different medical center with greater experience with this type of cancer. The tumor was completely removed, and no local or systemic spread was noted.

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