Twelve years ago, Josh Young’s life changed forever when he heard the devastating words, “You have tongue cancer.” It was a difficult diagnosis to process, considering Josh’s perfect health and the fact that his work often requires him to speak in public.
Since then, despite several treatment modalities, the cancer has returned every few years. In 2017, during the fourth recurrence, it spread aggressively into Josh’s gums and mouth. Without treatment, his doctor predicted he had six months to live. Facing the prospect of never being able to speak again, Josh underwent a complex microvascular surgery performed by Sylvester surgeons David J. Arnold, M.D., and Donald T. Weed, M.D., that took 13 hours to complete.
David J. Arnold, M.D., FACS
Associate Professor, Clinical Otolaryngology
Head and Neck Surgery Chief, Head and Neck Surgery Service, UHealth Tower
Chief of Surgery, Lennar Foundation Medical Center
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
At Sylvester, patients are cared for by physicians organized into site disease groups. This means that patients are treated by not just one doctor, but rather an entire team. Head and neck cancers, for example, are treated by a multidisciplinary team that consists of surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, speech therapists, and dieticians — all of whom have specific roles to play. The team comes together weekly to discuss patient cases and to decide, as a group, the best course of treatment. According to Dr. Arnold, when patients come to Sylvester, they are seen by experts that, on average, have more than 100 years of combined clinical experience in treating different cancers.
Thanks to the DCC, treatment for head and neck patients has significantly evolved from just a decade ago. Back then, standard treatment involved highly invasive surgery that required opening the jaw, surgically removing the affected area of the throat, reconstruction with microvascular tissue, chemotherapy, and radiation, or radiation treatment alone.
In the past 10 years, Sylvester researchers have discovered that many of these tumors respond as well to chemotherapy and radiation as they do to surgery. The impact of not having to undergo surgery is a game changer for patients with this type of cancer.Share this story