Dynamic Duo Surgeons: Treatment and Reconstruction for Head and Neck Cancer

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If you or someone you care about is diagnosed with head and neck cancer, particularly cancer of what doctors call the oral cavity, it's a scary diagnosis, and surgery remains the mainstay of treatment. But does that mean that your swallowing, eating, or speaking is affected? Advances in treatment and reconstructive surgery are helping those affected to maintain their quality of life. In this program you’ll hear from two leading experts in the field from Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Dr. Harold Pelzer, a head and neck surgical oncologist, helps to explain the diagnosis and treatment for various head and neck cancers. Dr. Neil Fine, a plastic surgeon, explains the reconstructive procedures that follow surgical treatment for these cancers, specifically oral cancer. Dr. Fine and Dr. Pelzer work together to ensure that patients have a good quality of life after surgery. You’ll also hear from Michael, an oral cancer survivor, who was treated by the doctors.

Michael begins by sharing his story. He talks being initially being diagnosed with oral cancer in the late 1990s, and how scary that was. When his cancer recurred in the past year, his local doctor didn’t think he had much of a chance with surgery. Michael chose to seek out other option and ended up at Northwestern with Dr. Pelzer and Dr. Fine. He talks about his surgery, treatment and recovery. He shares how he’s doing now and why he’s thankful for the care he received at Northwestern.

Drs. Pelzer and Fine do an excellent job explaining, in tandem, the ins-and-outs of surgery, why it’s necessary and how they are working to give the best quality of life possible post-treatment. Not everyone is a candidate for surgery but they explain who is and how they manage expectations of patients by counseling them both before and after surgery. The doctors also answer questions from listeners about osteoradionecrosis, biopsies and post-surgery issues. If you have questions about surgery for head/neck and oral cancers, these experts and an inspiring patient are sure to provide you with insight and information you can’t get anywhere else. Listen now.

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Transcript

Andrew Schorr:

If you or someone you care about is diagnosed with head and neck cancer, particularly cancer of what doctors call the oral cavity, it's a scary diagnosis, and surgery remains the mainstay of treatment. But does that mean that your swallowing, your eating, your speaking is affected? Maybe so. We're going to learn the latest in surgery and even immediate reconstruction to help you have a good quality of life from sort of the dynamic duo of head and neck surgery in the Chicago area and maybe nationally and also from an inspiring patient. It's all coming up next on Patient Power.

Hello once again. Thank you for joining us for Patient Power. I'm Andrew Schorr, and I'm so grateful to Northwestern Memorial Hospital where we connect you time after time with leading experts and discuss serious health concerns.

Now, I had a friend who was diagnosed with oral cancer, and he went through so much and ultimately had part of his jaw removed, and he had trouble speaking, and he had trouble eating. And it was really a very poor quality of life. But it doesn't have to be that way if you can be a candidate for surgery and then often reconstruction immediately. And they can do that for many people at Northwestern diagnosed with these cancers of what they call the oral cavity.

We're going to meet the two surgeons who work together as a wonderfully synchronized team at Northwestern Memorial in just a minute, but first I'd like to introduce you to someone who has benefited from that but also experienced the really terror of being diagnosed with an oral cancer, and really not once but twice, having a recurrence, and that is Michael Kurzawski, who lives in New Lenox, Illinois, south of Chicago. We're prying him away from the White Sox game this evening because he's an avid fan and goes to many of the games. And we should say that, Michael, let me see if I got this right, that your recovery from surgeries, the surgeries we'll describe from March, you were able to eat just the other night a hot dog at the game. And that was a big deal, right?

Michael:

That was Sunday, and yes, I enjoyed it.

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