Thu, Aug 02, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Doctors warn of cancer-causing habits

WARNING SIGNS:If a person has had ulcers or hard lumps in their throat for a month or more, they could have oral cancer and should seek medical assistance, a doctor said

By Tsai Hsu-yuan and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Wang Chen-chi, center, a doctor from the Department of Otolaryngology’s Head and Neck Surgery Division at Taichung Veterans General Hospital, and two of his patients hold up signs urging the public to quit smoking, drinking and chewing betel nut at a news conference at the hospital on Saturday last week.

Photo: Tsai Shu-yuan, Taipei Times

People should avoid smoking, chewing betel nut and excessive alcohol consumption, as these habits can cause cancer, Taichung Veterans General Hospital otorhinolaryngologist Wang Chen-chi (王仲祺) said.

Wang cited the case of a 67-year-old patient surnamed Lin (林), who was earlier this year diagnosed with stage-three cancer after seeking treatment for an irritated throat.

Lin’s habits of consuming 600ml of strong alcohol, up to 300 betel nuts and four packs of cigarettes every day for most of his life caused the condition, which went unnoticed until it was too late, Wang said.

In another case, a 55-year-old woman surnamed Lu (盧) was last year diagnosed with stage-three cancer after smoking, chewing betel nuts and drinking for most of her life, Wang said.

Lu started smoking when she was 10 and began drinking with her colleagues after work almost daily since entering the workforce, Wang said, adding that her cancer was treated, but she lost 15kg within three months and afterward found even breathing to be painful.

Both patients have had their tumors removed and are slowly recovering, and both have vowed to quit their habits, Wang said.

Waiting too long to quit habits could be life-threatening, Wang said, citing a patient surnamed Lu (呂) whose cancer was not discovered until it reached the fourth stage.

The man, who was diagnosed two years ago, had a 4cm tumor removed at the time, but has still not fully recovered, Wang said.

The 63-year-old had consumed betel nut and excessive amounts of strong alcohol for 35 years, Wang said, adding that while he is still undergoing treatment, he is now able to breathe and swallow properly, and can speak again.

Before oral cancer surgery can be performed, the size of the tumor must be determined and a surgeon must decide whether to employ traditional scalpel surgery or laser surgery through the mouth, Wang said, adding that not all patients are fortunate enough to retain their larynx.

People who develop ulcers or hard lumps in their throats that do not go away after a month should seek medical assistance, he said.

Throat cancer is the No. 4 cause of death worldwide, and there are about 6,000 new cases annually in Taiwan, he added.

The rate of throat cancer is on the rise in Taiwan, hospital surgeon Hsu Chung-ping (徐中平) said, adding that last year it was the ninth-highest cause of death in the nation, killing 1,797 people.

Throat cancer is particularly problematic, as it is hard to detect early and is normally only discovered after tumors grow, Hsu said, adding that the survival rate is only 20 percent for those who discover the cancer five years after its onset.

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