No, it’s not pretty. But this is what the exterior of the neck looks like after seven weeks of radiation and chemotherapy. Eventually it heals into new “baby smooth” skin but make no mistake, treatment is tough. One doctor told us the radiation and chemo take you down to the lowest point of your body’s tolerance where they will kill the cancer, while keeping you alive.
Radiation and chemotherapy are not the only course of treatment. Our Head and Neck specialist told us if the tumor is caught early enough before cancer cells spread to the lymph nodes, surgery is a possibility with radiation post-surgery.
Transoral robotic surgery or TORS is a possible option for patients in the early stages of throat cancer. The surgery uses computer technology and robotic arms to become the surgeon. TORS patients may benefit from reduced or no radiation/chemo treatments
Right now, researchers are studying the best course of treatment for HPV throat cancer. Because the rapid growth of HPV throat cases only began to emerge about 10-15 years ago, doctors are still trying to determine what’s too much and what’s too little. Typical throat cancer cases have been caused by smoking and alcohol use so until a better, more precise protocol can be determined, oncologists are treating HPV throat cancer patients with the same tough regimen of simultaneous radiation and chemotherapy (Cisplatin or Erbitux). The double dose of treatment may be overkill but they can’t take the chance of under-treating HPV throat cancer.
WHAT TO EXPECT DURING AND AFTER TREATMENT
Radiation and chemotherapy treatment are cumulative. During the course of treatment as your body accumulates more radiation and chemotherapy, side effects also increase relative to how far your treatment has progressed. By the end of treatment, the effects have taken their toll.
Fatigue – Your body is giving all its got to endure the treatment and fight the cancer. Let your body try to rejuvenate itself as much as it can … rest.
Loss of Appetite, Changes in Taste, Loss of Saliva are all common.
Feeding Tube – Doctors have mixed opinions about inserting a feeding tube into the stomach prior to the commencement of HPV throat cancer patient. Those who recommend the procedure say it is much easier to endure the outpatient process of insertion while the patient is still relatively strong, i.e. before radiation and chemo. Other doctors say they want the patient to keep swallowing as long as possible so as not to lose that reflex.
We opted for the feeding tube. It was impossible for my husband to consume any solid foods by the third week of treatment. The oncology nutritionist prescribed Isosource, a high-calorie liquid nutrition “shake” – we diluted it with water before pouring it into the feeding tube bag.
Weight Loss – It is not unusual for patients to lose 30-50 lbs. during HPV throat cancer treatment.
NOTE: Unless attributed to a doctor or medical organization, all views on HPVANDME.ORG are published from personal experience only and not intended to be any form of medical advice.
Always consult your doctor.