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Health Spotlight | Revolutionizing tongue cancer treatment

Health Spotlight | Revolutionizing tongue cancer treatment

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Cancer — we all know it’s a tough battle for anyone diagnosed with it. The treatments can be brutal – chemo, radiation, and surgery take a toll on the body, and depending on where the cancer is, living after cancer can be brutal. One such cancer, tongue cancer. For many patients, they may survive, but are left unable to swallow or even speak normally. But now, a new treatment is helping patients return to normal after surviving a tongue cancer diagnosis.

Michael Douglas and Stanley Tucci have more in common than acting – both are tongue cancer survivors. As in all cancers, it’s a difficult battle, and this cancer comes with its own challenges.

“People are suffering. They need to be cured and they need to be cured with less toxicity now,” emphasizes Dr. Jared Weiss, MD, Oncologist at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Standard treatment of tongue cancer involves surgery to remove the cancer, followed by chemo and radiation.

Dr. Wendell Yarborough, MD Head & Neck Surgeon at UNC Hospitals explains, “People with that amount of tongue that are missing, likely, will have trouble swallowing and could be g-tube dependent the rest of their life.”

Doctors at UNC Hospitals have completed two very successful trials. It’s not yet standard treatment, but some patients choose to pursue this treatment outside of a clinical trial. For patient Tre Bell, induction therapy decreased the size of his tumor from a tangerine to a marble.

“Preserving the amount of tissue we’re able to preserve in him allowed him to speak, which I think is normally, and I think he’s on a regular diet and lives a normal life,” Yarborough adds.

And most patients did not need radiation after treatment, not only curing them, but improving their quality of life after surgery. Doctors hope a phase three clinical trial will help to change the standard of care for tongue cancers and also believe induction therapy will be used to treat other cancers as well.

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV. Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.