Health Watch - Zapping Vocal Tumors

David Huels and his wife have a big family to keep track of. But for the past seven years, he has had a tough time communicating with them.

"I could not have the volume, and I could not have the projection in my voice that I should have," Huels says.

Huels had a tumor on his vocal cord.

"These are the same precancerous warts that happen on the cervix in women, frequently from the same virus, called Human Papillomavirus," says C. Michael Haben, M.D., a laryngologist at the University of Rochester in N.Y.

Dr. Haben says surgery can remove the tumor, but an unrelated spinal problem prevented Huels from getting surgery. He simply had to live with the hoarseness.

"Probably more significantly though, he's had a tumor on his vocal cord that he goes to bed every night, thinking about, wondering, 'Is this going to turn cancerous?'" Dr. Haben says.

Now there's a better solution. A laser destroys tumors in less than 30 minutes.

"It targets the blood supply. If you can eliminate the blood supply to any tumor in the body, you will cure the tumor," Dr. Haben explains.

It cuts off the blood feeding the tumor, leaving surrounding tissue unharmed. Two weeks after the surgery, Huels' voice is still recovering, but he's already noticed a change.

"I can speak without forcing myself to speak," Huels says.

Now, he's looking forward to getting his normal voice back. "I hope I can sing and praise the Lord," Huels says.

And of course, he'll have an easier time talking to his family.

Dr. Haben says there are just a handful of clinics using this laser to remove tumors. The outpatient procedure is easier on both the patient and the health care system as it eliminates the need for repeat in-hospital surgeries.


Leslie White
Assistant Director of Public Relations
James Wilmot Cancer Center
University of Rochester Medical Center
(585) 273-1119

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