Michael Douglas Cancer Scare and Treatment Options

Today’s guest blogger is my husband, Robert Spies, MD.  Dr. Spies is a board certified plastic surgeon in Paradise Valley, Arizona.  He has been voted “Top Doc” by a group of his peers in Phoenix Magazine

Guest Blogger Article:  

I read in the newspaper yesterday about Michael Douglas discovering he has throat cancer.  I remember the same story several years ago about Eddie Van Halen.  Both have a history of smoking cigarettes.  Michael Douglas has chosen chemotherapy and radiation therapy for treatment of this disease.

As a cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgeon, I find this news worthy of several discussions.

It immediately brings forth the dangers of cigarette smoking or use of nicotine in any form.  Smoking is a strong risk cancer for throat cancer (voice box and vocal cords) and other cancers inside the mouth and throat such as tongue and tonsils.  I perform reconstructive microsurgery to rebuild areas of the mouth and throat that are removed during cancer surgery.  Most of these patients have a history of smoking.  Some also have a history of excessive alcohol use as well.

Treatment for this type of cancer includes either chemotherapy and radiation therapy which both Michael Douglas and Eddie Van Halen chose or surgical excision and repair. 

Most people think of plastic surgeons as cosmetic surgeons performing tummy tucks, facelifts and cosmetic breast surgery.  However, there are some who perform cosmetic and reconstructive surgery as well.  I am one who does both.  The reconstructive operations include rebuilding a woman’s breast after breast removal for cancer treatment as well as head and neck reconstruction after removal of throat or mouth cancers.

The other discussion in regards to cigarette smoking is its destructive nature to skin and your body’s blood supply.  Nicotine lowers the blood supply to different parts of your body by causing disease in your arteries.  This is quite evident on facial skin.  You are much more prone to looking older than you are due to early development of skin wrinkles, damaged skin with a course texture and deep lip lines.  These problems are much more difficult for a plastic surgeon to treat with continued smoking.  At the same time, performing surgery on a smoker is much more dangerous with higher complication rates.  Problem that could occur include skin loss or gangrene, excessive bleeding, higher infection rate and wound healing problems including breakdown.

Hopefully, discussions like this will help some people stop smoking.  As a plastic surgeon, I do want my patients to look better and feel better about themselves, but also to lead a more healthy lifestyle.  Cessation of smoking is the first step.