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Michael Douglas diagnosed with throat cancer

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Michael Douglas, an American award-winning actor and producer, said on David Letterman's "Late Show" on Tuesday night that he was diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer early this summer.

He said he has just finished the first week of an eight-week chemotherapy and radiation treatment and his spokesman Allen Burry was cited as saying that Douglas received treatment at Manhattan's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Michael Douglas was seeking medical attention after he experienced a sore throat that would not go away.  But over the course of a few months, doctors treating Douglas could not find anything medically amiss.

Michael Douglas's wife Catherine Zeta-Jones, an award-winning actress, was cited as saying that she was furious with doctors for not diagnosing the disease sooner.

The prognosis for stage 4 throat cancer is not good; by this stage, the cancer has spread to other organs.  However, the survival rate depends on the cause of the disease.

Throat cancer caused by drinking and smoking has a survival rate of 50 to 60 percent, while throat cancer as a result of exposure to Human papillomavirus (HPV) has a better prognosis, a survival rate of 80 percent.

When interviewed by David Letterman, Douglas said that his throat cancer was caused by drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco. Generally, throat cancer of this type does not respond to chemotherapy and radiation as well as throat cancer caused by HPV virus.  

But Douglas was quoted by abcnews.com as saying "The tumor is at the base of his tongue and his doctor's prognosis is for a full recovery.

Throat cancer is a broad term, and it could mean a few cancers, including the cancers of the nasopharynx, the oropharynx and the hypopharynx.  Depending on its definition, it can also include cancer of the larynx. 

Throat cancer is diagnosed in about 25,000 men and women in the United States; the disease kills about 6,000 people annually in this country, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Following a healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce throat cancer risk.   

A study published in the May 2008 issue of the International Journal of Cancer found that an adequate intake of fruit and vegetables was associated with a reduced risk of head and neck cancer, including cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx and larynx.

Freedman N.D. and colleagues from the National Cancer Institute examined data collected during a period of about five years from 490,802 U.S. men and women who participated in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study; they ultimately discovered that eating fruit and vegetables was linked with reduced risk of head and neck cancer.

Specifically, people who consumed the highest amount of dried beans, string beans and peas, apples, peaches, nectarines, plums, pears and strawberries, peppers and tomatoes and carrots were at 20 to 40 percent reduced risk of head and neck cancer including pharyx or throat cancer, compared with those who consumed the lowest amount.

Jimmy Downs and editing by Rachel Stockton


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