Assumed at first to be the result of a molar cavity, that swelling was later confirmed by a biopsy and tonsillectomy to be a squamous cell head and neck cancer that originated in the base of Joe’s tongue. Because the tumor was too large for surgical removal, his doctors instead recommended radiation and chemotherapy.
“Honestly, when I got that news, I wasn’t worried about dying,” said Joe. “I was worried about getting the best possible treatment—but even more so about all the potential side effects of radiation and chemotherapy. To use the vernacular, it freaked me out a lot.”
But then the winds shifted. As Joe began researching his treatments options, he learned about proton therapy and its potential for effectively treating the tumor while dramatically limiting the side effects associated with conventional radiation.
“The more I read about proton therapy, the more it felt like the way to go,” said Joe. “From a science standpoint, it just made sense to try to minimize any potential damage to healthy tissue.”
He raised the possibility of proton therapy during a consultation with a radiation oncologist at a hospital near his home—who immediately referred Joe to the New York Proton Center (NYPC).
Within 24 hours, he received a phone call from Dr. Robert Press, NYPC’s lead head and neck radiation oncologist.
“And just like that,” said Joe, “the ball was rolling.”