I just finished Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of America's Imagination by Brian Jones. I remember reading Dr. Seuss books when younger and while parts of this book, such as finding out that Mr. Geisel struggled with writing his books, were inspiring, there were other parts, such as finding out he was a chain smoker and that he may have had an affair with a married woman, that were a bit disappointing as well.
So what does Dr. Seuss have to do with dentistry? Well, in early 1983, at what was supposed to be a routine dental appointment, Mr. Geisel/Dr. Seuss learned he had a small cancerous lesion at the base of his tongue--a cancer that was attributed to his many years of smoking. From 1983 until his death in 1991, Geisel dealt with the cancer, its treatment, and its side effects. He endured surgery, an iridium transplant at the base of his tongue (which caused problems with the circulation in his jaw--later causing jaw pain and loosening of teeth), and more surgery (a radical neck dissection and deep biopsy). From this experience came his book You're Only Old Once! When he needed a root canal, it developed into a major infection (possibly from the decreased circulation) which led to further deterioration of his jawbone. It even eventually affected his speech.
If you believe the book, Geisel was surprised to learn he had cancer. No symptoms were reported prior to his diagnosis. This is typical of many head and neck cancers--which is why the long-term survival rate for them is so low. They are often not discovered until they are in an advanced stage. Geisel sought out several medical opinions--always a good option--but he also rejected some of their recommendations, especially early on in his diagnosis--and that makes me wonder if the outcome might have differed if he'd followed their initial recommendation to have a more extensive surgery. We will never know.
You can learn more about Oral Cancer by clicking on those words to see an entry from the Dear Doctor educational library.
*Note: Information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare professionals.
Dr. Jennifer Robb is a general dentist who sees both adults and children in her dental office located at
1612 Cooper Foster Park Rd.
Lorain, OH 44053