ART SIBLEY is thankful his advanced tongue cancer was successfully treated with radiation and chemotherapy in 2004. But he has had to learn to live with the swallowing problems common in people suffering from head and neck cancers. "Radiation destroyed my saliva glands. I have a permanent dry mouth and eating is an issue even today," says Art, a retired special constable with the Barrie Police Service.
Problems with swallowing can lead to serious medical complications, such as pneumonia, malnutrition and dehydration, depression and anxiety, or even death. Art, an avid cyclist, dropped from 160 to 129 pounds and needed a feeding tube for almost five months to get adequate nutrition.
Dr. Rosemary Martino received funding from the Canadian Cancer Society to test a new tool designed to assess the severity of complications from swallowing disorders in head and neck cancer patients.
This research is an essential step in making the tool widely available and used by doctors to better support their patients. Ultimately, it will allow doctors to properly address swallowing problems and prevent serious complications.
"Any research that can improve your quality of life while going through treatment and after surviving cancer is so important," says Art.