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Thread: Sudden Growth in Neck Tumor During Treatment

  1. #1
    Newbie New User
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    Aug 2017

    Sudden Growth in Neck Tumor During Treatment

    My brother-in-law is undergoing radiation/chemo treatments for HPV related throat cancer. He reached the halfway mark last Friday, tumor growth was down significantly and he was feeling pretty good overall, considering. He woke up Monday am and the tumor in his neck suddenly appeared larger than ever! Dr said "this is very unusual, I don't know what to make of it" and ordered add'l weeks of radiation. Also, he has developed severe dry heaving throughout the day/night. Has anyone experienced this happening? He has gone from being optimistic to very pessimistic. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
    Last edited by Boraboca; 08-29-2017 at 09:00 PM. Reason: Typo in title

  2. #2
    Moderator Top User IndyLou's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Do you know what kind of chemo regimen your BIL has been on? For starters, the HPV+ trait to head & neck cancer is a positive with respect to radiation and standard of care treatment. My tumor started to decrease in size in the very first week, and continued to decrease with each passing week. So, I would agree with the doctor that for the tumor growth to suddenly increase, it is very unusual. Perhaps the swelling is related to something else, and is not the actual tumor. I'm sure the oncologist/radiologist will get a scan and see what's actually happened.

    As for the "dry heaving," I think this is something that many head & neck cancer patients experience, especially when receiving radiation. The radiation does a number on salivary glands--you go from making a lot of saliva not not making much at all. The saliva is likely very thick and ropy, too. What gave me a little relief were scopolamine patches (commonly used for sea-sickness.) It's a temporary condition, but I can understand why your BIL is getting discouraged. I hate to break it to you, but it could get worse before it gets better.

    About the halfway point into his treatment, he's probably experiencing a lot of oral pain: redness, swelling of the tongue, gums and palates. Mucositis is probably setting in, and he may not be able to eat much at all. He should work with his radiologist/oncologist's office and allow them to manage the oral issues with various treatments. Also, his mouth and swallowing ability may be getting painful enough to require a narcotic pain reliever, if he does not have one yet. Additionally, he should get a referral to a dietitian, who might be able to suggest foods and nutrition alternatives. It will become a challenge to eat over the next few weeks, and it will remain that way for a while. Unfortunately, the healing from this will be measured in weeks and months, not a few days.

    The prognosis is good, however, so your BIL should expect to live a long and healthy life following the cancer. Best wishes, and feel free to ask any other questions.
    Age 54 Male
    early Feb, 2013 - Noticed almond-sized lump in shaving area, right side of neck. No other "classic" cancer symptoms
    late Feb, 2013 - Visited PCP for check-up, PCP advised as lymphoma. Did blood work, orders for CT-scan, referred to ENT
    3/7/13 - CT-scan inconclusive, endoscopy negative
    3/9/13 - FNA of neck mass
    3/14/13 - Received dx of squamous-cell carcinoma, unknown primary
    3/25/13 - CT-PET scan reveals no other active tumors
    3/26/13 - work/up for IMRT
    4/1/13 - W1, D1 of weekly cetuximab
    4/8/13 - W1, D1 of IMRT
    5/20/13 - complete 8 week regimen of weekly cetuximab
    5/24/13 - Complete 35-day regimen of daily IMRT
    mid-July 2013 - CT-PET scan reveals no active tumors, but shows necrotic tissue at site of original tumor
    early Sept 2013 - partial neck dissection to remove necrotic tissue. Assay shows no cancer present.
    Spring 2014 - No signs of cancer
    Spring 2015 - NED
    Spring 2016 - NED
    Spring 2017 - NED
    Spring 2018 - NED
    Spring 2019 - NED


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