Michael Douglas: 31 Days in the Life of a Throat Cancer Patient

VIDEO: Ron Claiborne takes a look at the disease the actor is suffering from.
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Scott, a 66-year-old high-tech consultant from Silicon Valley, thought the small lump he detected under his jaw line while shaving about two years ago was caused by allergies.

Doctors eventually discovered the small growth on the back of his tongue was throat cancer. The growth was in the same location as that of 65-year-old actor Michael Douglas..

VIDEO: Actor Michael Douglas reveals to David Letterman that hes battling stage 4 throat cancer.
Michael Douglas Stuns With Cancer News

Scott didn't want his last name used and at first was hesitant to talk about his grueling cancer treatment, which just ended Aug. 23.

"I have a clear sense that some of my customers are suspect of being around people with illness and would bolt if they thought I was fighting cancer," he said.

Six weeks of radiation -- 31 days to be exact -- have left Scott with what he describes as a "wooden neck," no taste buds and a sore throat that makes swallowing anything firmer than an avocado a living hell. But he hoped his story might shed light on what lies ahead for Douglas and perhaps help prepare other throat cancer survivors.

"Tongue and throat cancers are very tricky," he said. "They have a very high rate of cure if caught early, however the after-effects of the treatment are quite long-lasting and rather extensive."

Douglas went public with his prognosis just this week in an appearance on "Late Night with David Letterman": stage 4 throat cancer with an 80 percent survival rate.

Scott's prognosis is better than the actor's -- over 90 percent-- but Douglas will endure the same radiation regimen, followed by chemotherapy.

"I have worked eight hours a day through the six weeks of radiation treatments," said Scott. "So it can be done without bringing your life to a standstill."

Head and neck cancers account for approximately 3 to 5 percent of all cancers in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute.. There were 12,660 new cases of pharyngeal cancers in 2010, the kind both Douglas and Scott have; 2,410 of those people die annually.

Risk factors include tobacco and alcohol use, which may be related to Douglas' cancer, and the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is the cause of Scott's disease.

At first, doctors agreed with Scott that the lump he found might be due to allergies. After a course of medicine and antibiotics, Scott's lymph node swelling went away. But when it came back, his ear nose and throat specialist noted, "That really shouldn't be there."

For six weeks, specialists stuck him with biopsy needles, took x-rays and MRIs, and determined he had stage 3 cancer, but they didn't know where.

"The doctor was finally able to feel it with his finger and it was about the size of a pea," said Scott. "It wasn't even visible with a picture and the camera."

Oncologists have three options for treating throat cancer: surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, "but they all have bad consequences," said Scott.

Throat Cancer Surgery Can Damage Voice

Surgery was almost immediately ruled out because of the potential damage it can cause to speech or the swallowing mechanism.

"I really didn't see this coming at all," said Scott, a divorced father and grandfather who had never been sick. "I felt stuck."

But he embarked on an education process, going online to do research and eventually choosing treatment at the University of California, San Francisco Comprehensive Cancer Center, instead of a local hospital.

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