New laser therapy saves the voice of a musician

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Rocker Roger Daltrey and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler not only share a musical bond, they have both been treated with a laser procedure on their vocal cords.

Now, one doctor is using a first-of-its kind approach to battle stage-four cancer on another famous musician.

Aerosmith bassist Tom Hamilton normally slaps the bass in rock songs, but this song is a message to his throat and tongue cancer.

In 2006, Hamilton underwent chemotherapy and radiation for tongue-base cancer, but three years later, his cancer came back and extended into his voice-box. That is when he turned to Dr. Steven Zeitels.

"This is not your classic way, or even traditional way, to try and remove a cancer from the tongue base,” Zeitels said.

Since Tom had already undergone radiation and chemotherapy, radical surgery was his only option, but that could leave his voice and breathing passage permanently damaged.

Since Dr. Zeitels has had great success treating vocal cord cancer with the green-light KTP laser, Tom decided to be the first person to try the unique approach in the tongue base. The KTP laser emits a green light, which is concentrated in the extra blood running through the cancer.

"Where there is a lot of cancer, there will be a lot of blood. Where there is a lot of blood, there will be a lot of combustion so that you are actually watching the tissues burn completely different,” Dr. Zeitels said.

Dr. Zeitels cautions not everyone is a candidate for the unique laser surgery.

A major advantage of the laser is it can be done repeatedly as new benign or malignant lesions are found. Tom feels Dr. Zeitels' laser procedure saved his voice and his life.

Tom is feeling great, and that is good because he has a busy schedule. He will be hitting the road with Aerosmith this fall. They will be performing in Mexico and South America and will wrap things up with several concerts in Japan.

Research Summary:

BACKGROUND: The National Institutes of Health estimates that 7.5 million Americans have trouble using their voice. The disorders can range from spasms to tumors. The KTP Laser treatment is an innovative laser therapy that can be used for vocal cord cancer. It successfully restores patients' voices without radiotherapy or traditional surgery, which can permanently damage vocal quality.
(SOURCE: Annals of Otology, Rhinology, & Laryngology)

TREATMENT: KTP Laser Therapy is a delicate laser technology that allows doctors to treat vocal cord lesions, such as polyps or tumors, as an outpatient treatment without anesthesia. The laser procedure allows patients to be treated without the risk of radiation or damage to the underlying tissue, which better preserves the natural voice. This procedure is especially beneficial for patients with reoccurring conditions that require regular treatment, such as laryngeal papilloma or laryngeal dysplasia. (SOURCE: Emory Health Care)

EARLY RESULTS: The first 22 patients who received pulsed laser treatment for vocal cord cancer were reportedly cancer-free several years after treatment. Some have required second or third laser treatments to remove residual disease, but another benefit of the therapy is that it does not rule out future therapeutic options. Dr. Steven Zeitels estimates that 90 percent of patients with early vocal cord cancer would be candidates for pulsed-KTP laser treatment.
(SOURCE: American Broncho-Esophagological Association)

There are several advantages to the KTP Laser Therapy. Some include:
* Pulsed-KTP laser therapy allows vocal cord lesions to be removed with minimal damage to vocal fold tissue, thus preserving the natural voice.
* It is ideal for patients with reoccurring conditions because it does less damage to the vocal folds, and it can be performed as an outpatient procedure.
* The procedure can be performed while a patient is awake. The patient needs only a numbing agent, no general anesthesia and can drive himself home immediately after the procedure.
* It replaces the need for traditional inpatient vocal cord surgery, requiring only a couple of hours of patient downtime as opposed to the two days needed for a typical operation under general anesthesia.
(SOURCE: Emory Health Care)

Melanie Woodworth
Mass General Hospital Center for Laryngeal Surgery
(617) 726-0218

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