tongue cancer

Baker serves great desserts despite not tasting them

Source: Livingston Daily
Author: Frank Konkel

The Argentine Township woman loves the way chaotic mountains of ingredients meld together to form a singular creation. In the sugary-sweet science of baking desserts, she is a master, wielding her two chief weapons, chocolate and peanut butter, like a wizard waves a wand.

At family functions, people fight over whichever dish she brings to pass. Her nephew, committed to play college football this year for the University of Indiana, isn’t worried about taking hits from 300-pound linemen. He’s worried about how his aunt is going to ship him care packages full of cupcakes across state lines.

Dave Johnson, her husband of six years, recalls thinking, “Oh, my God, can she ever cook,” after the couple’s first dinner date back in 2002. He’s fought a losing battle with his waistline ever since.

“I’ve been told by many people that they’re the best thing they’ve ever eaten,” Tami Johnson said, without a hint of boasting in her voice.

Thing is, she can’t taste the delectable desserts she makes. At least not her cupcakes.

Not anymore.

Last July, the 43-year-old had her tongue removed by doctors in an effort to rid her of the oral cancer she was diagnosed with June 19, 2009. For the following three months, she underwent two rounds of chemotherapy and 35 rounds of radiation treatment. Doctors were forced to remove 112 lymph nodes from her head and neck, two of which tested positive for cancer.

The oral cancer and subsequent treatments taxed her body to its limits, forcing her to leave her job as manager of Borders Express inside the Great Lakes Crossing mall in Auburn Hills. Her 3-year-old son, Michael, went to stay with her brother-in-law for six weeks following the surgery. Johnson and her husband battled the cancer as best they could during what became the most tumultuous time of her life.

“It was just frickin’ awful,” Dave Johnson said. “She went through so much pain. It was a bad situation.”

A bad situation got worse when Tami Johnson developed an abscess on her backside shortly after being released from the hospital. A second surgery was required to remove it, after which doctors failed to prescribe pain medication, causing her shocked body more excruciating pain.

“It was not good,” Tami Johnson said. “It was just not pleasant at all.”

By February, she said she started feeling better, though nowhere near her normal self. With the help of her friends, family and “extremely supportive” parishioners at St. John Catholic Church in Fenton, which the family attends services, she had at least temporarily beaten the cancer.

But she had little direction in her life outside being a mother. Doctors had not — and still haven’t — given her medical clearance to return to work.

Even if she gets the green light from doctors to return to 70-hour workweeks, she said there’s no way she could handle the same job again. Without her tongue, she still speaks clearly enough for people to understand, but cancer changed her.

“It was a decision in my head. I know how I used to be, and I am not that same person anymore,” she said. “I could not go back to the stress level and those hours, knowing what my job was. After cancer, I need to be around my son and family. Things get put in perspective. I had to do something different.”

She opened Tami’s Sweet Treats out of her home in June, one year after being diagnosed with oral cancer. She’s sold her baked desserts and goodies at the Hartland Township and Fenton farm markets each week since. Someday, she’d like to expand the business to include wedding cakes, but for now, cupcakes, cookies, ice-cream sandwiches and other treats do the trick.

“This was something I always wanted to do, but I could never find the time to do it,” Tami Johnson said. “When I got to feeling a little better, to where I could actually do something again, I started thinking about giving (the business) a go.”

It hasn’t taken long for word to spread about her baking prowess. People can’t get enough of her chocolate peanut butter cupcakes, which feature a peanut-butter cup baked inside a chocolate cupcake, layered in a chocolate peanut butter ganache on top with chopped up peanut-butter cups.

“Mmmm,” said Kathie Horning, who runs the Hartland Farmers Market. “They’re rich. And they are delicious.”

On Saturday, the Hartland Farmers Market will host a cupcake-eating contest featuring Tami Johnson’s creations. She will donate the cupcakes that will be devoured by hungry competitors from three age categories: 6-12, 12-18 and 18 and older. The competitor from each division who eats the most chocolate peanut-butter cupcakes in two minutes wins.

Tami Johnson will be selling cupcakes and other desserts throughout the day, with 10 percent of sales going toward the Oral Cancer Foundation. The cupcake-eating contest, she said, will be a fun way to bring some money and, more importantly, awareness to oral cancer.

Tami Johnson said she didn’t smoke, never drank alcohol and wasn’t exposed to any environmental hazards, yet still acquired oral cancer at a relatively young age. Sadly, she said, there’s been an increase in the diagnosis of oral cancer in middle-aged women who haven’t engaged in activities known to cause oral cancer.

“More and more women my age are getting this with no background (in smoking),” she said. “There’s big research going on with it right now. People should know about it.”

Though Tami Johnson can no longer taste all her delectable creations, she still bakes.

She’ll bake this weekend to help raise money to combat the disease that nearly crippled her.

She’ll bake after that to bring extra income to her family.

But mostly, she will continue to bake because she loves it.

Just as baking turns a chaotic amalgamation of ingredients into a singular entree, so to it has turned her many recent challenges into a strong sense of self.

Baking has given Tami Johnson one sweet life.

Contact Daily Press & Argus reporter Frank Konkel at (517) 552-2835 or at

Gene may hold key to reducing spread of oral cancers

Source: University of Illinois
Author: Sam Hostettler

The spread of cancer cells in the tongue may be reduced if a gene that regulates cancer cell migration can be controlled, according to new research at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Oral cancer is an under-treated and poorly understood disease, says Xiaofeng “Charles” Zhou, assistant professor in the UIC Center for Molecular Biology of Oral Diseases and lead researcher of the study.

More than 90 percent of oral cancers are squamous cell carcinomas that normally start on the gums, floor of the mouth, or tongue. About 30,000 Americans are affected each year, Zhou said.

While new cancers of all types have risen 8 percent in the last five years, oral cancer increased 21 percent, according to the American Cancer Society. Tongue squamous cell carcinoma, one of the most frequent oral cancers, rose more than 37 percent in this period. And although overall cancer deaths decreased during this period, those due to oral cancer increased by 4 percent — and those due to tongue squamous cell carcinoma by 10 percent.

Improvements in patient survival require better understanding of tumor invasion and how cancer spreads, Zhou said, so that aggressive tumors can be detected early and targeted therapies can be developed.

While researchers have tried to identify altered genes that contribute to the aggressive nature of tongue squamous cell carcinoma, most previous studies have focused on protein-encoding genes, Zhou said.

The new study examines a noncoding gene called microRNA-138.

MicroRNAs are small, noncoding RNA molecules that control the expression of a target gene after the intermediary message for the gene has been transcribed into RNA, Zhou said. Several microRNAs are believed to stimulate the spread of various types of cancer. The new study, he said, demonstrated that a reduced level of microRNA-138 is associated with enhanced ability of tongue squamous cell carcinoma cells to spread.

“Our knowledge of genomic aberrations associated with noncoding genes and their contributions to cancer initiation and progression is relatively limited,” he said.

The study is published in the August issue of the International Journal of Cancer. It was funded by grants from the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, and the Prevent Cancer Foundation.

Zhou was assisted by Lu Jiang, Xiqiang Liu, Jinsheng Yu, Anxun Wang, Fei Shi and Caroline Heidbreder of the UIC Center for Molecular Biology of Oral Diseases, and Antonia Kolokythas of UIC’s department of oral and maxillofacial surgery.

July, 2010|Oral Cancer News|

Trends in the incidence rates of tonsil and base of tongue cancer in England, 1985-2006

Source: Ann Royal Coll Surgery Engl. 2010 Jul 7
Authors: Reddy V, Cundall-Curry D, Bridger M.

INTRODUCTION The aim of this study was to investigate whether incidence rates of tonsil and base of tongue cancer in England are increasing using data from the UK cancer registry.

SUBJECTS AND METHODS Cancer registrations for oral cavity and oropharynx cancer from 1985-2006 in England were obtained from the National Cancer Information Service. Population estimates were obtained from the Office for National Statistics. Age-adjusted incidence rates and age-specific incidence rates were calculated. The sexes were considered separately as incidence rates are known to differ significantly between men and women. Linear regression was performed to establish whether there was a relationship between incidence rates and time.

RESULTS There has been an increase in all oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer in the study period. Linear regression analysis suggests that approximately 90% of the variance in age-adjusted incidence rates for men and women for tonsil, base of tongue and other oral cavity cancer is explained by the passage of time. For other oropharyngeal cancer, the variance is 62% and 46% in men and women, respectively. The estimated annual percentage change from 1985 to 2006 in age-adjusted incidence rates for tonsil and base of tongue cancer is 5.7% and 6.7% for men, and 4.3% and 6.5% for women, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS This study confirms a wide-spread clinical impression that there has been an increase in age-adjusted incidence rates, between 1985 and 2006, in all oral cavity cancer in England. The age range 40-69 years has seen the biggest increases in age-specific incidence rates for tonsil and base of tongue cancer. This reflects the findings of similar studies in other countries

July, 2010|Oral Cancer News|

Research argues HPV vaccine should extend to boys

Author: Staff

It is already available free to young girls in countries like Nauru, Vanuatu, Tuvalu and Cook Islands, but researchers are now saying the human papilloma virus, or HPV, vaccine Gardasil should also be offered to males.

It follows new Australian research showing that the virus which causes cervical cancer in women is now a leading cause of oral cancer in men. It says 60 per cent of throat and tonsil cancers are caused by the virus.

Presenter: Lindy Kerin
Speaker: Barbara Rowe, associate professor in research with University of Sydney; Luke Connolly, director of Australian Centre for Economic Research; Dr Jonathan Clark, head and neck surgeon with Royal Prince Alfred and Liverpool Hospitals, New South Wales

LINDY KERIN: For the past two years Australia has been rolling out the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil to young women. It immunises them against the human papilloma virus, or HPV as it’s known. Now there’s growing evidence that the same virus is responsible for an increasing number of mouth and throat cancers in men.

Barbara Rowe is an associate professor in research at the University of Sydney.

BARBARA ROWE: We’ve tested just over 300 cancers of the oropharynx, and the oropharynx includes the tonsil and the base of tongue and part of the pharangyl wall. And we’ve tested those for the human papilloma virus type-16 and type-18, which the major cause of cervical cancer in women. And we found a sizeable proportion are associated with those types. In fact probably in excess of 50 per cent now.

LINDY KERIN: Those figures from 2001 to 2005 increased to almost 60 per cent in 2006 and 2007. Associate Professor Rowe says head and neck cancers have traditionally been associated with older men and related to alcohol and smoking. She says these findings show that has now changed and most likely due to the increasing practise of oral sex.

BARBARA ROWE: We now know that there’s another subset, which is quite distinct biologically, which tends to affect younger people who don’t smoke and don’t drink, caused by human papilloma virus, probably by sexual transmission. And the types of papilloma virus that are associated are type-16 and 18 which are cause cervical cancer, the major cause of cervical cancer.

LINDY KERIN: Associate professor Rowe says the findings should prompt discussions about extending the vaccination program to boys.

BARBARA ROWE: The paper that we just published gives some indication of the numbers of cancers that would be potentially preventable down the track by vaccinating boys.

LINDY KERIN: Dr Jonathan Clark is a head and neck surgeon at Royal Prince Alfred and Liverpool Hospitals in New South Wales. He says the rate of HPV cancers in men is increasing.

JONATHAN CLARK: At the moment we’re trying to come to grips with what it means and how it changes our approach to managing these types of cancers. The evidence is very strong that if you have the human papilloma virus causing this sort of cancer, in fact your prognosis is better than if the cancer is caused in the typical fashion which is due to smoking.

LINDY KERIN: Dr Clark says extending the vaccination to boys is worth considering and is worthy of further research which could take some time.

JONATHAN CLARK: Even if there’s research today, tonsil cancers occur in an older group of patients. Though HPV positive tonsil cancers tend to occur in younger people who don’t smoke. But they develop over many years. So it is going to take quite a bit of time to see whether the introduction of the HPV vaccine actually has an effect of reducing the rate of tonsil cancer.

LINDY KERIN: Researchers say the cost-effectiveness of extending the program to boys needs to be analysed.

The director of the Australian Centre for Economic Research on Health is Luke Connolly.

LUKE CONNOLLY: What needs to be done is the models that researchers like myself and others are using need to be extended to try to cover these additional types and the impact of the vaccine on these types. That’s not always particularly easy to do but there’s now sufficient data I think to allow us to start down that path to assess the effectiveness of the vaccine, the cost-effectiveness of the vaccine for boys.

April, 2010|Oral Cancer News|

Mike Strantz remembered for visions

Author: Howard Ward

strantzHe was a commanding figure. He wore his hair long, his mustache bushy, and he was a big guy, ruggedly handsome.

Mike Strantz didn’t look like a man who would go easily, and he didn’t. He fought the cancer with the same determination that he approached a property that dared him to build a golf course on it.

I was fortunate enough to do two interviews with Strantz, shortly after the opening of Tobacco Road in Sanford, one of his architectural triumphs, and again while he was applying the finishing touches to Tot Hill, an amazing course laid out on a challenging piece of land in Asheboro.

Both of those golf courses tell you a lot about Mike Strantz, the golf course designer. But his widow, the lovely Heidi, can tell you a lot more about Mike Strantz, the husband and father of two beautiful daughters.

Heidi Strantz talked about her late husband and the love of her life during a meeting of the Carolinas Golf Reporters and the South Carolina Golf Ratings Panel last weekend at Seabrook Island Resort, and it was both inspirational and moving.

“I thought I was marrying a golf course superintendent when I married Mike,” she recalled. “He had just graduated from the turfgrass school at Michigan, and we thought he would make a career of that.”

Mike definitely knew how to make grass grow, and he enjoyed working the land. He was on the scene at Inverness during the 1979 U.S. Open when Lon Hinkle found a way to cut a dogleg on one hole and the decision was made to plant a tree in the opening overnight. Strantz is shown in a picture as the tree is being planted.

Strantz began his design career under the tutelage of the renowned Tom Fazio, spending 10 years with that genius.

“He started at the very bottom,” Heidi said, “and worked long hours, much of the time away from home. Finally, he said, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ It wasn’t easy, but eventually the golf world found Mike.”

A call from Larry Young, a developer in Myrtle Beach, resulted in Strantz designing Caledonia and True Blue, two courses that thrust him into the forefront as one of America’s brightest young architects.

Once he was on his own, Strantz developed a reputation for working on courses as close to his home in Charleston, S.C., as possible. He worked on only one course at a time, devoting himself to that project until it was completed.

“Mike was an artist,” Heidi said, demonstrating this by showing some slides of his artwork. “He took his art and translated it to the courses. It was a combination of his art and his love of the land.

“Mike made everybody feel special. He had been at the bottom, and he knew how it felt to have no one pay attention to you. He didn’t look down on anyone, and that’s why the men working for him loved him. That’s how those great golf courses got built.”

Strantz built only nine courses before his untimely death.

“He had tongue cancer,” Heidi said, “and it was the kind that early detection could have cured. But Mike was too busy working and didn’t take time to have it checked. Most of his tongue had to be removed, and he wasn’t able to express himself with words. When he had to talk to someone, he used me as an interpreter, because I could understand every word he said. I had to go to meetings with him, and he’d say, ‘You have to tell them what I’m going to say.’

“Mike got a lot of criticism for building hard golf courses, but he was a purist. Everybody said, ‘Mike Strantz doesn’t know how to draw a straight line,’ but his visions came true.”

Tobacco Road is a prime example of the visions Strantz saw. He looked at a piece of land that had been ravaged over the years as a quarry and saw a one-of-a-kind golf course. A piece of property that could have been used as nothing else is now one of the most talked about golf courses in the country. It’s on the bucket list of golfers all over the world.

March, 2010|Oral Cancer News|

Tongue reconstruction

Author: staff

Tongue cancer accounts for about 25 percent of all oral cancers. According to the National Cancer Institute, about 10,530 cases of tongue cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year. Although the cancer can occur at any age, it’s most commonly diagnosed in older people, with a median age at diagnosis of 61. Men are affected about twice as often as women.

Two important risk factors for tongue cancer are smoking and drinking. For people who smoke and drink, the risk may be up to 100 times that of those who neither smoke nor drink. Another risk factor for tongue cancer is HPV (human papillomavirus) infection. Douglas Chepeha, M.D., Microvascular Reconstructive Surgeon with the University of Michigan, says doctors are also seeing cases of tongue cancer in young and older women who neither smoke nor drink. The reasons for these cases are not clear.

Overall five-year survival rates for tongue cancer are about 59.5 percent. However, the cancer has the potential to spread fairly quickly. If the cancer is detected when the condition is still localized, 5-year survival rates are over 77 percent. Once the cancer spreads regionally, survival rates drop to about 55 percent. Thus, early diagnosis is important. Patients who develop a sore on the tongue that doesn’t heal or bleeds easily should see a physician for evaluation.

Treating Tongue Cancer: Reconstruction After Surgery

Tongue cancer typically occurs on one side of the tongue. The main treatment is surgery, which can require removal of a significant amount of tissue. Chepeha says doctors typically allow the remaining portion of the tongue to heal or place a skin graft over the area. But that can leave patients with trouble speaking, eating and swallowing.

Chepeha and his colleagues are using a reconstructive technique, using a graft from the patient’s own body, to improve the aesthetics and function of the tongue. The natural tongue contains areas of thin and thick tissue. So doctors take tissue from areas of the body that best match the varying degrees of thickness. The most common donor site on the body is the forearm. For very skinny or overweight patients, the abdomen may provide a better match in tissue thickness.

To create the tongue graft, the surgeons look for the area that best matches the size and shape of the original section of tongue. Chepeha compares it to using a fabric pattern to cut out material for a piece of clothing. Once the ideal area is selected, surgeons carefully cut away skin, fat and piece of nerve (no muscle is removed). Then blood vessels and nerve in the graft are connected to those in the mouth. Chepeha says the first 72 hours are the most critical time after the transplant. If the blood vessels are not connected precisely, a clot can form and the transplanted tissue will die.

After the surgery, the nerve in the graft provides some sensation in the transplanted tissue. However, the graft doesn’t have enough muscle control to move on its own. Therefore, patients need to learn how to maneuver the remaining natural half of the tongue for speaking and eating. Taste is not affected much by the surgery because taste buds on the remaining half of the tongue and those located in other areas of the mouth continue to function.

December, 2009|Oral Cancer News|

Colleen Zenk Pinter: Cancer survivor has much to be thankful for this year

Source: Acorn Online
Author: Susan Wolf

Thanksgiving will be more than a pleasant holiday gathering with family and friends this year for Colleen Zenk Pinter. It will be a celebration of life, of being thankful for those closest to her.

Ms. Zenk Pinter approaches this Thanksgiving cancer-free after a long and often painful battle with oral cancer. Her journey has been fraught with setbacks, but she has emerged as a formidable opponent, one who now uses her celebrity to educate others about oral cancer.

A two-time Emmy Award nominee, Colleen Zenk Pinter has played the character of Barbara Ryan since 1978 on the CBS daytime drama As the World Turns. Her own world was turned upside down in March 2007 when her oral cancer was diagnosed. A lesion under her tongue “that didn’t even look like cancer” was, in fact, cancer.

Somehow she got through her daughter Georgia’s 14th birthday party, telling no one, not even her husband, actor Mark Pinter, who was out of town. Finally, the next day, she gave the news to her husband and mother and then went to see Jen Wastrom, a woman she affectionately calls the “ring leader” of her posse of friends. Eventually “the posse” was notified and thesupport that has come to mean so much to Ms. Zenk Pinter immediately materialized.

After a second opinion from Dr. Clarence Sasaki of Yale-New Haven Hospital on how best to treat her cancer, Ms. Zenk Pinter put herself into his hands. He performed a partial glossectomy and resection, removing the right side of her tongue while leaving the taste buds, and then rebuilding her entire tongue.

“The surgery was pretty gruesome. I got through the first couple of weeks and then went back and learned that next was radiation,” Ms. Zenk Pinter recalled.

Brachytherapy, which places the radiation inside the area of the tumor, was used. Twenty radioactive rods were implanted in Ms. Zenk Pinter’s tongue. Her tongue eventually rejected seven of them and two of them broke through, burning her throat. A third surgery replanted them with only a local anesthetic since Ms. Zenk Pinter had already had so much anesthesia.

But three weeks later, Ms. Zenk Pinter, who is also a talented singer and dancer, her husband and two of what she calls “her two acting kids,” Dylan and Kelsey, were scheduled to perform in Sondheim’s Follies in Chicago. Some of her friends tried to discourage her from performing. Ms. Wastrom was not one of them. She recalled how happy her friend was when trying on her gown for Follies.

A voice

Immediately after her diagnosis and before her second opinion, and against advice, Ms. Zenk Pinter got on the Web, where she found the Oral Cancer Foundation ( to learn more about the disease. “I had no risk factor for this ‘old man’s cancer’,” she said, but her first doctor said hers was probably due to human papilloma virus (HPV), which is most often associated with cervical cancer.

Because of her desire to educate others, Ms. Zenk Pinter said she decided “to be as vocal as I could possibly be… Maybe I have this [cancer] because this disease needs a voice.” She offered her “voice” to Brian Hill, executive director of the Oral Cancer Foundation and a Stage 4 oral cancer survivor. “He said, ‘Get well first, and then decide’.”

After Follies, she told Mr. Hill that she was ready and a marketing plan was put in place. She has partnered with the Oral Cancer Foundation, Yale-New Haven Hospital and Roswell Park Cancer Institute to get the word out about oral cancer, and has made appearances on CBS and CNN to talk about it.

Ms. Zenk Pinter also went to the producer of As the World Turns and asked if he could write oral cancer into her story line. She put him in touch with the Oral Cancer Foundation and six months later, her character was diagnosed with cancer.

Many of Ms. Zenk Pinter’s fans had noticed a difference in her speech after her surgeries and were concerned she had had a stroke. She remembers how difficult it was to enunciate.

“I had to completely learn to respeak,” she said, adding she couldn’t put consonants together. Her tongue still swells each night, so it is more difficult to speak in the morning. And don’t ask her to say “fast break” too quickly. The “st-br” combination is still difficult.

While Ms. Zenk Pinter continued to live a full life, she was well aware there is a 50% two-year return rate on her cancer. “Mine was back in 18 months,” she said. “The survival rates are not that great and the quality of life can be horrendous, but I’ve been lucky.”

A year ago September, Ms. Zenk Pinter found a lump under her jaw line — two weeks after a clear PET scan. She knew the results of her biopsy two days before Thanksgiving in 2008, and the day after Thanksgiving, instead of shopping on Black Friday, she underwent a neck dissection, an ear to chin surgery to remove 21 additional lymph nodes.

Posse arrives

When her husband had to go back to L.A. after Thanksgiving, it was her posse of friends who took care of her. “This is a group of girls I couldn’t live my life without,” Ms. Zenk Pinter said.

During the radiation she underwent every day for five weeks, she had to wear a mask molded to her face and was strapped to a table while the radiation was being directed to her neck. Her day started with driving Georgia to Barlow and “a posse member of the day” driving her to Yale-New Haven Hospital and then home. She’d spend the rest of the day sleeping and knitting, making cuffs of mohair and cashmere or bamboo or merino wool for her posse. The cuffs were knitted with five needles and it took about 14 hours to make each pair of cuffs— seven pairs were placed on her mantel one by one.

After radiation was finished, Ms. Wastrom dragged her to yoga class. “I was so weak, I was trying to do something physical to get myself back together,” Ms. Zenk Pinter said. “All I did was physically shake during those first classes,” she added. She spent four months trying to get her body back in shape for a project that didn’t work out, but her strength has returned.

Ms. Zenk Pinter said Ms. Wastrom “is like a sister to me. I don’t know what I’d do without her. She is always there. I’ve always been very fortunate to have wonderful friends, most of them lifelong.” Her friends come from different backgrounds, she said, including Susie Bedsow Horgan, an Emmy-award winning writer and producer, the only person in Ms. Zenk Pinter’s inner circle who is in the entertainment business.

Friend Jeanne Billett of Redding is described as her “pillar of strength,” the one who was her advocate with the oncologists and doctors and who is a self-described women’s rights advocate. The Pinters and the Billetts will once again spend this Thanksgiving together, as they have all of the holidays for years.

Then there is Mary Redding of Marblehead, Mass., a lifelong friend, “who drops everything to jump on I-84 on a moment’s notice to come down and help.” Another lifelong friend, Lindy Lewis Webbe, “had dropped out of the sky but we reconnected” when she moved to Easton in 2008,” Ms. Zenk Pinter said. “She’s there for me at a moment’s notice.”

“My posse from different parts of my life are now all meshed with each other,” Ms. Zenk Pinter said. “They all check up with each other to see if I’m OK.

“I’ll be giving thanks not only for having my good health back, but also for being surrounded by friends I adore, who have taken care of me and supported me and fed me and my children, and took me where I needed to be taken. I want to be around to enjoy the company of all my great friends in my old age.”

Ms. Zenk Pinter said she is “surrounded by love” here and remarked about the outpouring of cards and letters she has received. Acquaintances have given her many gifts, including “beautiful yarn. How thoughtful that is — that they know this keeps me busy and makes me happy in so many ways.”

Many others, she added, helped take care of her children when her husband was out of town.

There are six children in what Ms. Zenk Pinter calls her “blended” family (his, hers and their children). Ms. Zenk Pinter said the children were raised as a family. “No one ever referred to the other as a half or step. There is such love and support with these kids.”

Siri, 28, is in California and the mother of Ms. Zenk Pinter’s first grandchild, Jackson James. Kelsey, 25, is in New York City where she is an aspiring actor. The twins, Dylan and Hannah, are 24 years old. Dylan is also an actor in New York and Hannah is a casting director for NBC in Los Angeles. Morgan, 19, is a sophomore at Lafayette College where, to his mom’s delight, he was named the Lafayette College Greek God of 2009. Georgia, 16, is a Joel Barlow High School junior and a member of the school’s varsity volleyball team. The Falcons “were the Cinderella story of high school this volleyball year,” said Ms. Zenk Pinter. The team was the runner-up in the State Class M Championship this past weekend.

“She’s a rabid volleyball fan,” Ms. Wastrom said about her friend.

“I’ve been lucky my schedule has allowed me to only miss two games,” Ms. Zenk Pinter added.

Another battle

While Ms. Zenk Pinter was going through her own battle with cancer, she found out her mother, Ruth Zenk, was diagnosed with Stage 4 uterine cancer. That was in June 2008. “We had our mother and daughter oncology days,” Ms. Zenk Pinter said. She happily reports her mother is now cancer-free.

With her cancer behind her, Ms. Zenk Pinter is enjoying “the outrageous story line” for her on As the World Turns. She is now involved with a much younger guy. “It’s so much fun for me. It’s being played for comedy,” Ms. Zenk Pinter said.

She was voted best actress in Soap Opera Digest in every issue for the last four months and also named performer of the week in the Nov. 17 issue. She was named one of TV Guide’s “Sexy and Beautiful People” for 2009.

For Ms. Zenk Pinter, she is grateful for the support she has received from the producers of As the World Turns. “They didn’t abandon me, and now they have put me front and center again. I appreciate this more than when I was younger, but I appreciate everything more now.”

Ms. Zenk Pinter has learned “not to sweat the small stuff. It’s not important. What is important is going to my daughter’s volleyball games, helping out my friends when they need help — we are all there for each other, and that’s what counts.”

“A castmate said, ‘You’re awake now,’ and I am. I am not sleeping on the job anymore,” said Ms. Zenk Pinter. “At this point I just want to be with my kids and enjoy and not worry… I just want to enjoy those around me and hold them close, and to give thanks.”

Colleen Zenk Pinter of Redding, an actor who stars as Barbara Ryan on As the World Turns, has partnered with the Oral Cancer Foundation, Yale New-Haven Hospital and Roswell Park Cancer Institute to be a spokesperson for oral cancer. Ms. Pinter was diagnosed with oral cancer in March 2007 and is now cancer-free.

“I had no risk factors for this ‘old man’s cancer,’ she said, but her doctors said hers was probably due to human papilloma virus (HPV), which is most often associated with cervical cancer.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the country, and it is estimated that about 70% of American men and women will be infected at some point in their lives.

According to Ms. Zenk Pinter, a growing number of women are being diagnosed with oral cancer, from one in 10 to now a 50-50 split. “The difference is HPV,” she said.

She is a proponent of the Gardasil® vaccine against HPV for both girls and boys. It doesn’t help if only half of the population (girls) is being vaccinated. Why boys? “Simple. HPV is sexually transmitted.”

Physicians and researchers advocate that the vaccine be given to both sexes, Ms. Zenk Pinter said.

During her speech at New York University School of Dentistry graduation, where she received the 2009 Harry S. Strusser Memorial Award for Public Service and Outstanding Contributions to Public Health, Ms. Zenk Pinter implored the graduating doctors and surgeons to thoroughly check their patients for oral cancer at every cleaning. “If it is caught early,” she said, “it is highly treatable.”

Her message, Ms. Zenk Pinter said, is, “Make sure you have a thorough cancer screening every time you see your dentist.”

She has made appearances on CBS and CNN and major women’s magazines to talk about oral cancer early detection. She was honored in 2008 by Hollywood, Health and Society at USC for her oral cancer storyline on As the World Turns. The society is a watchdog group that assesses medical storytelling in film and television.

Ms. Zenk Pinter recently spoke at the American Cancer Society luncheon in Westport and will be speaking at the first Head and Neck Cancer Symposium in Phoenix, Ariz., in January. “Wherever they need me, I will go,” she said.

She has been nominated for the Gilda Radner Courage Award for 2010, which is given to a cancer survivor who has made an impact in the field. “I am very humbled and honored,” Ms. Zenk Pinter said.

Oral cancer survivor’s animal sanctuary being foreclosed

Source: The Press-Enterprise

After 21 years of sheltering crippled and slaughter-bound horses and other barnyard animals, Renee Duncan is losing her 12-acre rescue ranch to foreclosure.

Now Duncan, a 63-year-old former emergency room nurse in remission from cancer, is scrambling to move dozens of rescued animals out of the gully in unincorporated Perris in southwest Riverside County long known as the Meadowbrook Animal Sanctuary and Haven.

Until Duncan finds a permanent home, a neighbor is offering shelter to her and her 50-some horses, a couple of emus, two turkeys and dozens of goats, pigs and dogs.

Though there are two people bidding on the ranch who say they would allow Duncan and her critters to stay as renters, Ocwen Bank, which is repossessing the ranch, has ordered Duncan to clear the property by 6 a.m. Monday.

Eviction attorneys and brokers with Ocwen Bank declined to comment on the situation.

Duncan said her nonprofit animal rescue is going under ironically because she always put her animals first.

She said she began to run into financial trouble in 2005 after being diagnosed with throat and tongue cancer. She stopped working to undergo chemotherapy and radiation.

Duncan refinanced the house three times to try to keep up with medical bills and animal care.

As money grew tight, she always paid for animal feed and veterinary care, which amounts to about $3,000 a month, even if that meant not paying the mortgage.

“I ended up with a $4,000-a-month payment at 12.5 percent interest, and we tried to keep it but we were unable,” she said.

“This has been more traumatizing than when I was diagnosed with cancer and the treatment. It’s been absolutely to me unbelievable and very, very bad for the animals.”


In recent days the ranch has been bustling with volunteers leading animals into temporary places as a roving tractor moved their pens and fencing next door.

Duncan said it’s the most upheaval to ever besiege the typically sleepy ranch, a patchwork of old shade trees and dirt trails leading to various horse, pig and emu pens. Next to a two-story steel hay barn sits the main house — an old wooden bungalow built in the late 1800s.

Duncan’s hope is that she and her brood will get to stay if Ocwen Bank and one of the two bidders can settle on a price.

But if they cannot remain, Duncan is already thinking about moving 2,400 miles east to a plot her brother owns in North Carolina.

The downside to that, she said, is that she would lose a network of loyal volunteers and the area would lose a nonprofit dedicated to sheltering and relocating a rising number of abandoned animals.

In the past year, Duncan said, she’s placed about 20 dogs and several goats. But she said it’s difficult to find homes for the needier “throwaway” animals.


Over the years, several of the world’s castaways have become Duncan’s “keepers,” as she calls them.

There’s Jack the pig, short for Jack-in-the-Box, so named because as a piglet his legs atrophied from being kept in a small box. On the ranch Jack has learned to walk again.

In a nearby pen paced Cuckoo bird, an emu Duncan took in after it was attacked by dogs.

Walking about a spacious dusty pen, Duncan recalled the stories behind 50 healthy-looking horses that had once been headed for slaughter.

Some were blind. Plenty were former racehorses. Some had been labeled too old, like Barry, a racehorse who ended up pulling carriages at Knott’s Berry Farm for years before Duncan salvaged him from a killing house.

To contact Duncan and the sanctuary, mail letters to: 18285 Collier Ave. Suite K, P.O. Box 106, Lake Elsinore, CA 92530; or call 951-505-7871

Reach Julissa McKinnon at 951-375-3730 or

June, 2009|Oral Cancer News|

Too Hot for Teacher?

Calendar raises money and eyebrows

Source: Fox 35 News

Author: Holly Bristow

COCOA BEACH, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) – On campus, he teaches math at Cocoa Beach Junior/Senior High. Off campus, he’s known in some circles as “Mr. August.” 

Patrick Kile is the driving force behind a calendar which features fellow teachers – some scantily-clad – all for a charity project.

Money raised from calendar sales goes to cancer research. It’s a fundraiser for his “Relay for Life” team and all profits are going to the the American Cancer Society, but do students really need to see skin from their teachers?

While it’s getting some good reviews, shots like Mr. June (pictured) are making some waves, as six of the teachers are shirtless.

“Coach Mortar coaches wrestling and works with weightlifting,” said Kile. “He also teaches history.”

“They’re teachers! You’ve got young impressionable teenage girls,” said one parent “They don’t need that. They need role models, not sexy muscles.”

Kile, 33, teaches Geometry and helps coach Girl’s Soccer.

“We just wanted something ‘outside the box,’ unique and fun and different, that would help open some eyeballs and raise some money,” said Kile, who is a cancer survivor himself. 

“Back in 2005, I was diagnosed with tongue cancer that spread to my neck.”

Now that he’s in remission, Kile is trying to help other cancer victims. 

“It’s for a good cause. I went to the school board and spoke with the ethics director of human resources and he thought it was a great idea!” 

Kile hopes others see it that way too. If not, he says, “Just don’t buy the calendar.”

So far, he has sold 100 calendars. Each is priced at $20. His goal is to sell 1,000 calendars to raise about $10,000.

To buy the calendar, contact Patrick Kile at 

April, 2009|Oral Cancer News|

Reconstructive surgery aids swallowing after tongue cancer resection

Author: David Douglas

Almost all patients with base of tongue cancers treated with primary surgery and reconstructed with a modified radial forearm free flap consistently achieve efficient and safe swallowing postoperatively, Canadian researchers report in the August issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery.

As senior investigator Dr. Hadi Seikaly told Reuters Health, “This procedure effectively restores swallowing, speech and quality of life for patients requiring major resections of the tongue.”

Dr. Seikaly of Walter C. MacKenzie Health Sciences Centre, Edmonton, Alberta and colleagues note that there is a lack of information on the functional outcome of such procedures.

To investigate further, the team prospectively followed patients who were treated with primary surgical resection and reconstruction with the beavertail modification of radial forearm free flap followed by radiotherapy.

After a follow-up of at least one year, 19 of the 20 patients with complete data who were included in the final analysis were able to swallow safely.

Nevertheless, mobility of the base of the tongue was reduced compared to presurgical findings according to videofluoroscopic swallowing study data, but no significant difference was found in pharyngeal wall mobility, and the bulk of the base of the tongue was preserved.

The procedure, the researchers conclude, maintains adequate base of the tongue and posterior pharyngeal wall apposition allowing “structures such as the pharyngeal, oral, and suprahyoid musculature to contract and generate the necessary force to propel the food bolus through the oropharynx, resulting in a safe swallow.”

Original source: Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg;134:857-864

September, 2008|Oral Cancer News|