Nov 29, 2003 - 1:56 pm
My sister was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the maxillary sinus in February 2002. She had part of her upper hard and soft palate removed, had a neck dissection and was given radiation therapy.
Last November 2002 she was again diagnosed with metastasis to the lower jaw and had that removed and was given more radiation, both intra-operative and post operative. The radiation was so bad that she developed severe pain in her throat, and asked the doctor to stop one week early. Because of the problems with her throat she had a gastric tube inserted into her stomach for feeding.
Last June she underwent more surgery to remove an ulcer from her throat. This turned out to be non-cancerous. Then this past July she developed severe pain in the back of her neck. When the pain did not respond to conventional prescription meds her doctor admitted her into the hospital for a "two day stay" to manage her pain intravenously. She was there for 7 weeks! She was finally released on a cocktail of meds - Demerol and Valium every three hours, and Duragesic every 3 days. She's still in excruciating pain, and the meds only work partially for about 2 1/2 hours. An MRI showed possible problems in her tonsil, pre-vertebral space and cervical spine. A biopsy was done of the tonsil and it came back negative for cancer. IT showed "radiation changes". The doctors were reluctant to biopsy the other areas because of the risk of creating more damage.
My sister believes that her pain is from too much radiation, not from cancer. Does anyone have any experience with this? I'd really appreciate hearing from anyone who has personallly gone through head and neck cancer treatment or a caregiver of such a person. I just can't bear to see my sister in so much pain. (By the way, before she was diagnosed she was a very successful radio talk show host. Now she can no longer make a living doing what she loves)