I was unaware that film critic Roger Ebert was suffering from oral cancer until he bravely allowed a portrait to be taken of him for Vanity Fair this week. He has oral cancer as well as head and neck cancer.
Mr Ebert's face is now distorted and somewhat unrecognizable from the nose down, although the portrait is quite stunning in it's simplicity and lack of "artsy" pretension. A man who has lost nearly one third of his face simply looks at the camera. His eyes are interesting. A combination of irony, defiance and smiles. He looks handsome.
Oral cancer is incredibly difficult for many people, not only due to the pain, treatments and fears, but because it can be so disfiguring. Hiding our body parts are one thing; hiding our face is another. And while no-one should be stared or pointed at, people with oral cancer are. A person missing much of their face will often isolate themselves. At a time when family, friend and community support is so important, the oral cancer patient may retreat, making life (and recovery) so much more difficult.
Eating, drinking and even breathing can become nearly impossible. Suffocation remains a constant threat and can be terrorizing for the patient.
Causes for head and neck cancers include a history of alcohol and tobacco abuse and more and more studies are coming out that link the human papilloma virus (HPV) to oral and facial cancers. You can read more about that here : http://www.empowher.com/news/2008/05/13/oral-cancers-linked-hpv-new-york-times
Many other causes for oral and facial cancers remain unknown.
Treatments include surgery to remove cancerous tumors, chemotherapy, radiation and other options. Facial reconstruction is also an option after remission.
It's important for us to limit smoking and drinking and to insist that oral and mouth screenings are a regular part of our checkups. Any signs of growths, colors or differences in our mouths, throats, necks, tongues and entire facial areas need to be looked into immediately.
There are several kinds of face and oral cancers. Here are a few to look at:
For facial cancer, click here : http://www.empowher.com/media/reference/throat-cancer
Tongue cancer :http://www.empowher.com/media/reference/tongue-cancer
Laryngeal cancer : http://www.empowher.com/media/reference/laryngeal-cancer
To see Roger Ebert's portrait and story, click here : http://www.esquire.com/print-this/roger-ebert-0310
What do you think of Roger Ebert's portrayal of his oral cancer and his experiences? Do you think his decision will bring more awareness into a medical condition that's not talked about much?
Do you, or someone you know, have a personal story about oral cancer you can share with us?
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