Special to The Sun
Tom Buxton, of Edmond, said he wasn’t shocked when he learned in 2011 that he had Stage II tonsil cancer because he had been down this road before.
A decade earlier, he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and underwent successful treatment.
“I had already been through the shock portion of a cancer diagnosis. I was like, let’s just get this thing done because I have other things I have to do. That was the attitude that I went in with.”
Buxton said he noticed in February 2011 that a lymph gland on his left jaw had popped up and had hardened.
He said he visited his dentist about it and later was referred through his general practitioner doctor to see an ear, nose and throat (ENT) physician.
Buxton said after several inconclusive tests a decision was finally made to have a half-tonsillectomy done at age 62 followed by seven weeks of proton radiation treatments at ProCure Proton Therapy Center in Oklahoma City.
“I had very little problem,” Buxton said of the treatment. “That is probably the nicest group of people top to bottom and the best attitude of any place I have ever been in any line of work. They were just great.”
Dr. Gary Larson, medical director at ProCure, said tonsil cancers are lumped into the category of head and neck cancers.
He said head and neck cancers make up approximately 7 percent of all cancers.
“Tonsil is one of about 15 sites that make up this category of cancers,” Larson said. “If tonsil cancer is caught early, surgical removal is done followed by radiation. If it is more advanced, surgery is done and then it is followed by radiation and chemotherapy.”
The main risk factors for developing this type of cancer are smoking and regularly drinking a lot of alcohol. If you smoke and drink a lot together, you increase your risk even further.
Buxton said he found that the survival rate for tonsil cancer is high if it is caught early.
“I did Internet research about the prognosis and treatment options,” Buxton said. “The cure rate on this if you catch it early is about 92 percent for five years, which is pretty good odds.”
Buxton said his doctors are pleased with how well he responded to the proton treatments.
“I am 13 months out from my last treatment and my ENT says I am the poster child of how this is supposed to work,” Buxton said.