The patients’ perspective in oral cancer – part III

Around 370.000 people worldwide are diagnosed with oral cavity cancer each year. Although this is a significant amount, there is little awareness of the symptoms and treatment of oral cancer. The primary, and most effective treatment is surgery. To raise awareness, SurGuide is issuing a trilogy of interviews to show how oral cavity cancer is affecting all age groups. This article contains the last interview, in the category of 60+ years.

A positive mind-set can be of great help when undergoing cancer treatment. That was also the case for Mr. J. Rozendaal (78). After overcoming non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 1986, Mr. Rozendaal remained positive when diagnosed with both vocal cord- and laryngeal cancer. He tells his personal story while using a voice prosthesis and a hands-free valve.

In May 2011, Mr. Rozendaal faced problems with his throat. “I went to the doctor and got antibiotics for my sore throat. The medications did not work and the problems remained. In October 2011, the general practitioner referred me to the Erasmus-university Medical Center. Disappointed, I walked out of the hospital with the diagnosis of vocal cord cancer.” Shortly after, Mr. Rozendaal started with radiotherapy. The therapy consisted of a series of 16 radiation treatments, starting from the 2nd of January, 2012. The treatments felt oppressive according to Mr. Rozendaal: “While you are being fastened to the radiotherapy lounger, your head is completely immobilized by a cap covering your face. This gives a very unpleasant feeling.”

I had to write down everything I wanted to say” – J. Rozendaal

Despite the initial success with radiotherapy, the cancer relapsed. In 2014, several years after the initial diagnosis, Mr Rozendaal was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer. On July 24, 2014, he was treated with surgery. Although the operation went well, he lost his ability to speak. To still be able to communicate, the hospital had provided him with a tablet. However, Mr Rozendaal experienced this as inconvenient. As a result, communication had to go through notes and sign language. “This was a very unpleasant experience. I had to write down everything I wanted to say.”

Mr. J. Rozendaal using a tablet to say “hello”

Despite this major operation, Mr. Rozendaal judges his quality of life as excellent: “Although I’ve lost my larynx, I can still eat, drink and do everything I want. I can even fly to Canada to visit my emigrated son. I just can’t put emotions in my voice any longer, which is very difficult.” He also said that he had endured the whole treatment well. Partly because of the support from his family. “They were already used to this situation because they had experienced this before. Yet their support, compassion and presence remained very important.” Thanks to their support, a positive attitude and good health, Mr. Rozendaal was able to overcome the disease. Now he enjoys life again.

“Be alert to complaints and if in doubt, quickly consult your doctor” – J. Rozendaal

Because head and neck cancer is a rare cancer, itis often detected at an advanced stage. Mr. Rozendaal his advice: “Be alert to complaints and if in doubt quickly consult your doctor.” About the treatment, he said the following: “It is very important that the surgeon balances the complete removal of the tumor with the preservation of tissue structures for the patient’s quality of life.”

The relevance

This was the last of a series articles that share the patients’ perspective in Oral and Head & Neck Cancer. It shows that Oral Cancer affects all ages and that adequate tumor resection is key for the patient his experience and quality of life.

With the development of MarginGuide, SurGuide aims to provide the surgico-pathological team more control over the outcome of the surgical procedure. With MarginGuide, SurGuide expects that the surgeon will be able to improve the surgical results and provide more confidence to the patient. This all with the aim to improve the patients’ prognosis and quality of life.

Want to know more about how SurGuide aims to improve the surgical care for oncology patients? Please reach out to