Tanzanian cured of rare throat cancer

ST CORRESPONDENT
Monday, 4 March 2019

About three months ago, a 41-year-old Tanzanian found it difficult to swallow food or water. After visiting many doctors in Tanzania, his worst fear came true and  he was diagnosed with 
cancer.

Pune: About three months ago, a 41-year-old Tanzanian found it difficult to swallow food or water. After visiting many doctors in Tanzania, his worst fear came true and  he was diagnosed with 
cancer.

A biopsy revealed the presence of oropharyngeal cancer which forms in the tissues of the throat. Oropharyngeal cancer affects the oropharynx that includes the tonsils and base of tongue and is a fairly uncommon cancer. Traditionally, it is associated with tobacco use. In non-smokers, it is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). 

Since the patient did not smoke or drink alcohol, it put him in a rare group. 

Often the first symptom of oropharyngeal cancer is a persistent non-healing, painless ulcer in the mouth or a painless lump in the neck. A persistent discomfort in the mouth follows the presence of this painless ulcer. Other signs include red or white patches in the mouth, a recurring sore throat, difficulty in swallowing, unexplained weight loss or changes in voice, coughing up of blood, consistent ear pain or persistent bad breath.

Dr Minish Jain, Director - Medical Oncology at Ruby Hall Clinic, where the patient was treated, said the patient came to them with difficulty in swallowing and pain in his throat.

“Advanced diagnostic tests and a PET scan revealed that he had Stage III oropharyngeal cancer. Looking at his case, we decided to opt for chemo-radiation. He underwent 30 radiation sessions without a break, the standard therapy for such high-risk cases. Within six weeks, his PET scan revealed he was cancer-free,” said Dr Jain.

He said when surgeries are undertaken for this type of cancer, they can be potentially disfiguring and debilitating.

“It can affect the way one eats, speaks and looks, as well as affecting their general quality of life.

In patients such as this patient, if the cancer does not recur within five years, then survival rate can be as high as 80 to 90 per cent. He will have to ensure that he exercises while maintaining a healthy diet that includes leafy greens and limited consumption of red meat. Bakery products must be avoided and smoking or drinking is a strict no-no,” said Dr Jain.

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