Aerosmith Star: Saving Voices With Lasers

FRESNO, Calif.

Aerosmith bassist Tom Hamilton normally slaps the bass in rock songs, but this song is a message to his throat and tongue cancer.

In 2006, Hamilton underwent chemotherapy and radiation for tongue-base cancer, but three years later, his cancer came back and extended into his voice-box. That's when he turned to Steven Zeitels, M.D., F.A.C.S., director, Mass General Hospital Voice Center & Eugene B. Casey Professor at Harvard Medical School.

"This is not your classic way or even traditional way to try and remove a cancer from the tongue base," Dr. Zeitels told Action News.

Since Hamilton had already undergone radiation and chemotherapy, radical surgery was his only option, but that could leave his voice and breathing passage permanently damaged.

"I was just terrified. I really thought, 'Oh, I am looking at not being able to talk for the rest of my life,'" Hamilton told Action News.

Since Dr. Zeitels has had great success treating vocal cord cancer with the Green Light KTP laser, Hamilton decided to be the first person to try the unique approach in the tongue base. The KTP laser emits a green light, which is concentrated in the extra blood running through the cancer.

"Where there is a lot of cancer, there will be a lot of blood. Where there is a lot of blood, there will be a lot combustion so that you are actually watching the tissues burn completely different," Dr. Zeitels said.

Dr. Zeitels cautions not everyone is a candidate for the unique laser surgery. Hamilton feels Dr. Zeitels' laser procedure saved his voice and his life.

"The second I had a tiny bit of consciousness, the first thing I did was make a sound and it feltnormal, and it sounded normal," Hamilton said.

A major advantage of the laser it can be done repeatedly as new benign or malignant lesions are found.

Hamilton will be hitting the road with Aerosmith this fall as part of the "Aero Force One" tour. They'll be performing in Mexico and South America and will wrap things up with several concerts in Japan.

Melanie Woodworth
Mass General Hospital Center for Laryngeal Surgery
(617) 726-0218

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