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Tongue Cancer

Posts: 2
Joined: Dec 2007

My father was treated for Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Anterior Tongue with Radio, Chemo and Brachy therapy.
However, the cancer has recurred and extends to the base of the tongue touching the epiglottis. The size is 5*4*3cms.
A couple of doctors say nothing is possible and we have to just treat the symptoms but the main doctor suggests surgery even though it is risky.
What choice do we have - Should we treat the symptoms or try surgery in spite of the risk?
Is IMRT an option? Is there some other option?

soccerfreaks's picture
Posts: 2801
Joined: Sep 2006

Without knowing your father's age or whatever other reason there is for there to be a greater than normal risk factor, and without knowing the level of risk and what the risk is, it is difficult to respond.

I will say this:

As a survivor of the same disease in the same basic location, my doctors advised me to go for the surgery and THEN to do chemo and rads afterward, because once chemo and rads were done, any potential ensuing need for surgery would be complicated in great degree by degradation of tissue resultant from the chemo and rads. So I went with that.

I don't understand, risk notwithstanding, what the efficacy is of treating symptoms rather than attempting to eliminate cause.

Finally, I don't understand why you are doubing the suggestion of the 'main' doctor, unless he or she has given you reason to doubt ability in the past.

I'm not sure what choices YOU have, but your dad appears to have but two; to take a risk and to have the surgery, or to avoid the surgery and to hope that other measures, which have not worked before, apparently, will 'treat the symptoms' this time.

If 'treat the symptoms' is code for palliative care, then you are looking at a choice between trying to take out the disease and living with it until he no longer can abide the treatment.

That is all based on your very limited information.

I had an aggressive team of doctors for a reason, and will never regret it.

Best wishes to your dad and to you.

Hope and humor!

Posts: 2
Joined: Dec 2007

Thanks for the response Soccerfreaks. Here's some more info
My dad's 63 yrs old and he had a Pneumothorax attack during the brachytherapy. No other major history of disease.
Unfortunately for us, we were advised to go for the therapy rather than surgery and so are now left with no other option.
The second opinion is that treating the disease is no use and we just need to keep my dad comfortable for whatever time...we obviously want to go with surgery even if it means a 5-10% chance of success.
I take it from your message that it is in line with our thinking as above.

soccerfreaks's picture
Posts: 2801
Joined: Sep 2006

Let me be clear: I had complete trust in the 'main' doctor involved in my treatment. If he had said there was a low likelihood of success (5-10%) regarding getting rid of the disease while there was a considerable risk (>50%) that I might not survive the surgery (if I understand you correctly), then I would NOT have had the surgery done.

The bottom line is this: I asked my doctor, 'what would you do?' and he was not supposed to answer me, but he did, and I said, 'well, then, that is what I will do.'

It is always a tough call, nramesh, always, when you get to the point of juggling probabilities and measuring quality of life versus quantity.

Doctors know medicine better than they know statistics, and I know a lot of people on this site who have defied statistics time and again.

In the end, though, I would go with what my 'main' doctor encourages.

Your dad has a tough decision, but I am sure he will make the best one for himself and for his family. He is fortunate to have someone such as yourself who is out there (here) searching for some help for him as he resolves this issue.

Whichever way he chooses, I am hopeful that you and the rest of his family and friends will support him in his decision.

Take care and best wishes.

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