Entries in Throat Cancer (2)


NFL Brawl Leads to Ref’s Cancer Diagnosis

George Gojkovich/Getty Images(NEW ORLEANS) -- Tony Corrente, a veteran referee for the National Football League, started a second round of chemotherapy for throat and tongue cancer Monday, two days after officiating Saturday’s playoff game between the New Orleans Saints and the Detroit Lions.

Corrente recalled his fluke cancer diagnosis and his drive to keep working during treatment in an interview Monday with Sports Illustrated’s Peter King.

It started with a brawl between the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Sept. 11 season opener. Corrente, a high school social sciences teacher in La Mirada, Calif., stepped in to split up the scrum. Instead, the ref was pushed over, landing hard on his head and back. Feeling the pain after the game, Corrente, 60, was given the option of Tylenol or Motrin. He picked Motrin, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory that also acts as a blood thinner.

In the days that followed, he began to cough up blood and was referred to a throat specialist who spotted the thumb-sized tumor.

“Getting knocked down and hurt in that Baltimore game might have saved my life,” Corrente told King. “Had I not done anything, or had I taken Tylenol, which doesn’t cause your blood to thin, I probably wouldn’t have discovered this for a while. And by then, I’d have needed massive surgery, and who knows what chances I would have had.”

Corrente started a seven-week stint of chemo and radiation therapy in October at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston that caused him to lose his hair and three weeks of work. But he was back in time for the Nov. 20 Baltimore-Cincinnati game.

Most throat cancers are detected when patients complain of voice changes, difficulty swallowing or palpable lumps on the neck. But coughing up blood can also be a symptom.

“This is an unusual way of being alerted to a diagnosis,” said Dr. Edward Kim, chief of head and neck medical oncology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. Kim was not involved in Corrente’s care. “But there are all kinds of anecdotes like this in sports  -- fluky plays that lead to a diagnosis.”

Because throat tumors tend to be spotted early, the prognosis is usually good. But the aggressive treatments can take a toll. On top of chemo, Corrente is also undergoing radiation therapy, which will blister his throat, fade his voice and make it painfully difficult to swallow.

Although he made it through Saturday’s Saints-Lions game, Corrente said he felt weak and sore Sunday. He told King he’s disappointed to be out for the rest of the playoffs, but added he’s looking forward to next season.

Kim said hunkering down at work can provide a much-needed distraction for people going through cancer treatment. “Whether you’re a lawyer, an executive, an NFL ref or a secretary, one can only imagine how hard it is not to think about the diagnosis and the future,” Kim said. “I do believe the more people can stay occupied and do things to keep busy and keep a positive attitude, it really goes a long way in helping them through the battle.”

Corrente might have a tough road ahead. But based on his performance Saturday, Kim said the prognosis looks good. “I would expect him to be calling games next season,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Significant Rise in HPV-Related Throat Cancer in Men

Adam Gault/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- HPV appears to be linked to a rare but treatable form of throat cancer in men that's on an uptick. If the trend continues, the annual occurrence of HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer among men will surpass that of cervical cancer among women by the year 2020, according to a study that will be presented this week at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual scientific meeting.

According to researchers, in 2004 there were nearly 4,000 to 4,500 cases of HPV-related oropharynx cancer in men and women. The number of cases is expected to double to 8,500 by 2020, with the increase occurring primarily in men.

"I think it's safe to say that we are on the cusp here of a pandemic. An epidemic that's about to begin," said Dr. Eric Genden, chairman of the department of otolaryngology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.

HPV, a common virus whose strains are believed to be the primary cause of most cervical cancer, has been linked to some head and neck cancers too.

The virus is spread through sexual contact and some doctors believe an increase in unprotected oral sex is the cause for the rise in throat cancer. However, it's unclear why some who carry the virus overcome it naturally while others develop cancer.

In 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the HPV vaccine Gardasil for males between the ages of 9 and 26, to reduce the risk of genital warts, and was approved in December 2010 to prevent anal cancers in males and females. Gardasil was first approved in 2006 for females, beginning at age 9, to prevent strains of HPV that could cause cervical cancer.

However, it's unclear whether the vaccine can prevent oral HPV infections. But many experts say it's likely, since the vaccine protects against some of the same strains found in HPV-related throat cancer.

According to Dr. Chris Sullivan, assistant professor of otolaryngology at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, the increasing instances of throat cancer "emphasize the need for head and neck screening even in patients without traditional risk factors of tobacco and alcohol use."

Previous studies suggest that head and neck cancer patients whose tumors test positive for HPV tend to survive longer and respond better to chemotherapy and radiation than those who test negative for the virus.

"This is preventable, there are clear signs and symptoms and it's curable if treated early," said Genden. Genden said that 85 to 90 percent of HPV-related cancer is curable.

While the rise in HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer is mostly found among older adults who were not offered a vaccine and now do not qualify for it, Genden said immunizing against HPV would prevent younger adults -- both men and women -- from later developing HPV-related cancers.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio