The doctor of a 52-year-old oral cavity cancer patient was furious when he discovered that his patient had been secretly pouring gaoliang, a fiery sorghum liquor, down his nasal feed tube just days after undergoing surgery to remove the cancer.
The man, surnamed Yeh (
The Chinese-language United Daily News reported that Yeh said that he had been a smoker, drinker and betel nut chewer ever since he completed his military service.
In recent years, he said he had been addicted to alcohol to the degree where he felt withdrawal symptoms if he didn't drink alcohol every day.
His doctor, Kaohsiung Chang Gung Hospital's Chien Chih-yen (
Department of Health figures indicated that oral cavity cancer was the fourth most common cancer in men and was strongly linked to drinking, smoking and betal nut chewing.
In recent years, the number of oral cavity cancer cases has increased along with betel nut use.
In 1979 alone, 282 cases of oral cavity cancer were reported in Taiwan.
By 1994 the number of cases of cavity cancer had grown to 1,545.
In 2002, the number of cases reached 3,709.
"The use of alcohol on its own is not necessarily carcinogenic, but when it is combined with cigarette or betel nut use, it strongly increases the likelihood of oral cavity cancer," said Chang Shyue-Yih (張學逸), the director of the ear, nose and throat department at Taipei Veterans' General Hospital.
"The stronger the alcohol content, the stronger the carcinogenic effect," he said.
However, according to Chang, it is possible that Yeh has found a way to indulge his addiction without exacerbating his cancer despite the anger of Yeh's doctor.
"If he took the liquor through his nasal tube, it means that there is no contact with the tissue of his oral cavity," Chang said. "Of course, he would still suffer from the deleterious effect of alcohol in his liver."
Old habits die hard, even when patients are warned that it could mean the difference between life and death.
"A serious alcohol addiction is as hard to break as an addiction to drugs," Chang said. "But for most patients, smoking is by far the most difficult habit to break."
"Even for those of who are told it could make the difference between life and death, only about half of my patients manage to quit smoking," Chang said.