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Keesongchang asked...

I finished my treatment of chemo and radiotherapy.

Tags: cancer

I finished my treatment of chemo and radiotherapy 8 months ago for head and neck cancer. How long can we survive on the statistic?

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The answer

I’m sorry to hear you’ve been going through such a difficult time. I’m assuming that you’re asking me about survival statistics because you’ve spoken to your specialist team and have been given a vague answer. The reason for that is that there are no absolutes – tumours that present early (at a stage where they haven’t spread) carry a much better likelihood of long term survival than those that present when the tumour has already spread, either by invading surrounding tissues or to distant parts of the body (so-called metastases); and different tumours will respond very differently to both radiotherapy and chemotherapy. If you are relatively young, and have no other long term medical problems, your likelihood of long term survival is also much improved.  I can tell you that the longer you survive without any evidence that the cancer has come back, the better your long term chances.  Unfortunately, radiotherapy can damage your salivary glands, resulting in distressing dry mouth. The function of the salivary glands may never return to normal. Taking frequent sips or sprays of cold water; sucking ice cubes; using sugar-free chewing gum; sucking boiled sweets; reducing caffeine intake and cutting out alcohol can all help. Otherwise, speak to your doctor about artificial saliva sprays, gels or lozenges.

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