"Jack Igleburger had no experience with cancer before he was diagnosed with it himself. As he says, "Cancer wasn't on [his] personal radar...". He had no close family members or acquaintances who dealt with the disease and, like most people, took life and good health for granted.
Jack had been dealing with a sore throat and raspy cough for several months when a lump appeared on his neck. He went through several attempts to diagnose the problem, including cough medicines and antibiotics for a possible infection. he was finally referred to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist.
During his last week of work and just before his retirement party, he got a call from the new doctor who asked him to come to his office the next day to discuss his biopsy results. He was informed that he had stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma of the base of his tongue. The cancer had already spread to his jaw bone, esophagus and lymph nodes. But the words that left the biggest impression on Jack came next: the cancer was inoperable, and he had approximately a 50% chance of survival.
Jack made it through the treatment with the help of a good team of doctors, family, and his new wife and caregiver, Temple - herself a breast cancer survivor. They attended the Support for People with Oral, Head and Neck Cancer (SPOHNC) "Celebration of Life" in New York in August of 2006... At the meeting, the experience of meeting other survivors and facilitators of support groups was an emotional one that initiated some thought for Jack and Temple. On the flight home they decided they should create a SPOHNC chapter in Arkansas.
With the help of a few local organizations, including Hope Cancer Resources, they held their first SPOHNC meeting on September 23, 2006. Today, they still facilitate the only SPOHNC chapter in the state of Arkansas. Their support for people dealing with this disease creates a ripple effect in our community: several of the survivors in their group also volunteer their time at local oncology clinics, work one-on-one with newly-diagnosed patients in the "Been There" program, or participate in local fundraisers to help support the network of cancer support in our area."
Awareness of cancer usually centers around the understanding of symptoms, and one's own personal risk factors. In the case of Oral, Head and Neck cancers (and many others), the side effects can often be mistaken for other health issues - just as Jack's was. Here are some key points from the National Cancer Institute to be aware of:
- Most head and neck cancers begin in the squamous cells that line the moist surfaces inside the head and neck.
- Tobacco use, alcohol use, and human papillomavirus infection are important risk factors for head and neck cancers.
- Typical symptoms of head and neck cancers include a lump or sore (for example, in the mouth) that does not heal, a sore throat that does not go away, difficulty swallowing, and a change or hoarseness in the voice.
- Rehabilitation and regular follow-up care are important parts of treatment for patients with head and neck cancers.
Follow the link above to learn more about common locations of head and neck cancers, detailed symptoms based on location, known causes and common side-effects of treatment.