Second Opinions

One day, so much information. First, let me say that radiating the head and neck doesn’t sound like a whole lotta fun. Second, I never thought some more surgery to the head would sound like a great option, but now it does. Third, suddenly it seems like flying to MD Anderson in Houston might be a great idea.

What I’ve learned today is that the kind of radiation treatment that Mark is lined up for is the kind that fries all the tissue on the way to the tumor, and all the tissue on the way out of the body. Which is to say, a lot of potential collateral damage in an area that can afford approximately none. Optical nerves, auditory nerves, temporal lobe, salivary glands — dosing Mark’s tumor means, even with the best of aim and the best of success, that all these things can also get some dosage. A radiation oncologist with not a lot of bedside manner delivered this stark facts. Mark could have permanent damage to some things, and will likely have permanent damage to others.

Mark’s sister started searching for places to go for second opinions. Was the diagnosis correct? Could genetic testing help at all? Would another surgery reduce the potential damage? Is proton radiation therapy an option? She started down the path of dialogue with Memorial Sloan-Kettering, and then followed the path to MD Anderson in Houston. MD Anderson, from all our research, is the hospital in the US with the most experience with SNUC. Since the cancer is rare, there’s no definitive treatment protocol. The most recent published articles are from MD Anderson. Could we go there? Was Mark strong enough to travel? How fast could we get in there? Would it compromise Mark’s health to take the time to pursue this option?