What’s behind curtain number 4?
A fourth set of silvery glands! Like most discoveries, this new anatomy was discovered by accident as a team researched a small group of people with prostate cancer.
How did these glands elude human anatomists?
They are hidden beneath other structures and only seen with very sensitive imaging.
Why does it matter?
It will make a huge difference for those coming after me needing treatment for head and neck cancer. One of the worst side effects of treatment is chronic dry mouth. A single treatment can compromise those delicate glands permanently.
If you don’t know how debilitating dry mouth can be, let me, Eva Grayzel, an oral cancer survivor explain. My sleep would be disturbed every hour due to an unmanageable parched mouth. Choking wasn’t uncommon when eating because there just wasn’t enough moisture to break down the food and thin it out enough to swallow. Most people never leave home without their cell phone, but I never left home without a water bottle to sip throughout the day to avoid the panic of choking from a mouth that feels like sticky peanut butter.
Doctors in oncology use radiation technology to block salivary glands from being completely obliterated. Now, that these new glands have been discovered, there is another chance for survivors of oral cancer (which is 85% of head and neck cancers) to be spared the harsh effects of dry mouth and speak and swallow more easily.
This discovery which I read about in the New York Times, will change the way head and neck cancers are treated. Now, the question is, how soon will the protocol change? What do you think? Spit it out 🙂