• 12/24/2004
  • Ivanhoe Newswire
  • The Triangle and Fayetteville

A promising new option for people with throat cancer is combining surgery and laser treatment to save patients’ voices.

The benefactors are people like Dolly Sigel, who used to be a speech therapist. Ironically, she was recently faced with the possibility of losing her voice.

“I was devastated,” Sigel said, recalling the diagnosis of a cancerous tumor on her right vocal chord. “I couldn’t believe that this was happening to me.” One treatment option was seven weeks of radiation, but Dolly was afraid it might affect her voice. Luckily, she came across a doctor who sought a superior remedy.

“Dr. Strome was doing a new procedure that would eliminate radiation, and there was a very good chance that voice quality would be retained,” Sigel said.

In the new procedure, Otolaryngologist Marshall Strome, of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, uses a laser to remove the tumor and then uses cryosurgery to freeze any remaining tissue.

“What the freezing does, at least to our knowledge at this point in time, is enables that scar tissue to be less dense, more pliable and gives us a better voice quality,” he said.

Strome explained that key to removing a tumor is to leave as much normal tissue as possible. He says cryosurgery does just that.

After Sigel’s treatment, her voice returned almost immediately. “I’m very optimistic,” she said. “I just think it’s terrific. Without a doubt, with no question, this has been a blessing.” And it is a blessing she hopes will last.

Sigel said she has another message: if you smoke, quit. She did 14 years ago. The American Cancer Society says there will be about 10,000 new cases of cancer of the voice box diagnosed in the United States this year. In most cases, throat cancer is preventable. The chief risk factors are smoking and alcohol abuse.