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Squamous Cell Carcinoma

I have recently been diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma. It was an accident really. I was being set up for a biopsy on my scalp when I noticed a swollen lymph node behind my right ear. The lymph node was removed and I found out that day. The official confermation came in two days later. I am in shock. I am afraid and my heart is breaking for my children. I will have a pet scan on Sunday and am afraid of the results and the treatment. I have already been told I will need Chemo once a week for six weeks and radiation five days a week for seven weeks. Should I get a second opinion or will I be wasting precious time?

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Squamous Cell Carcinoma with unknown primary

Hi,

I put this quick note together. I hope it helps. It is a work in process.

I am 62 years old and was diagnosed with “squamous cell carcinoma” with an unknown primary.

I noticed a swollen lymph node in my neck and through a series of test concluded it was a result of the diagnosis above was confirmed. After an extensive biopsy of my entire throat area the results showed no primary location. The treatment was agreed to by several Specialist in addition to my Family Doctor.

I was quite prepared for the worse by the Radiology Oncologist, Medical Oncologist, Cancer Research Surgeon and their staffs. The “care and support” approach all of the Doctors and their Staffs used was/is incredible. And, of course, it was emphasized that each patient going through this regiment of treatment experience difference levels of the side effects.

My goal was to continue to work, as much as possible, since I can work with my Teams and Customers remotely. I was not able to travel any more than local half day trips, if necessary. When all is said an done I opted for this to keep my head busy and off the treatments as much as possible.

In summary, I am in week 6 of a 7.5 week radiation treatment (5 days each week) with 7 chemo treatments of Cystplatin. We agreed to put in a PEG tube in case I was not able to actually swallow enough food to maintain my weight.

Week 1 and 2 were pretty uneventful with the exception that the PEG because infected and was terribly uncomfortable. I had lost about 8 pounds after the throat biopsy so that is where I started my tracking. The Chemo made me very constipated by the end of Week 1. I tried everything with little relief.

Week 3 and 4 I was seeing a decline in my energy level. Pain in my throat and pallet area increased to a level 4, but not requiring me to start on any pain medicine. Also we were able to get control over the PEG so it became progressively more comfortable.

End of week 4, my throat became very sore and I lost most of my voice. This caused me to start on the pain medicine about every 6-7 hours and not overnight as I was able to sleep fairly well.

As I was advised, this treatment is accumulative. That means that it will continue to get worse as the treatment goes on. This makes sense because the radiology is “frying” the cells in the area that was mapped. In my case the entire throat area, pallet, esophagus, and everything else in that area. Up to Week 4 I did not see any noticeable hair loss. In Week 5 I lost my hair along the bottom bask as if I got a haircut at the bottom of my hairline.

Week 5 the pain increase to the point I need to increase the pain medicine to every 4 hours. But I was still able to eat, soft foods and liquid foods like Ensure and Boost. My energy level has also decreased again most noticeable if I did not take it easy.

Side note, my daughter received her First Communion last weekend and, so, I was pretty active most of the weekend. That is probably why my energy level started off in the hole in Week 6. But after a limited activity day on Monday and Tuesday, I am not feeling too bad.

This is Week 6 and my voice is still not very strong, ok I can only whisper, so I am doing most of my work through IM, email and one of my colleagues for phone work. Short cat naps a couple of times during the day are really helpful.

My throat looks like it has a pretty good sun burn and is now starting to itch. I have been using Aveno several times each week since the beginning but I really didn’t feel anything substantially until now. The Aveno helps.

To be continued……

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