HealthWatch: Regaining a singing voice after cancer

Health Watch

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— About 10,000 new cases of vocal cord cancer are diagnosed each year in the U.S. Treating this type of cancer can be tricky because the vocal cords are vital for making sound. Now, how doctors saved one man’s singing voice…

Rich Geiler has been singing his whole life.

“Music has always been such a release, and such a pleasure,” Geiler shared.

But when doctors found a tumor on one of his vocal cords, Rich thought he might have to give it all up.

“Having sung or been in music for 50 years, that’s a big thing to not do again,” Geiler revealed.

The cancerous tumor had to go but doctors didn’t know how surgery would affect Rich’s voice.

“We prepared him that it could range from no voice whatsoever to a functional voice,” explained Erin Walsh, MA, CCC-SLP, IBCLC Speech-Language Pathologist at UC San Diego Health, Center for Voice &

Swallowing.

“So, I was faced with the idea that I could be … I don’t know … I might not have a voice,” Geiler recalled.

Surgeons had to carefully cut the tumor out with a technique to minimize scar formation, stiffness, and voice change – while preserving as much of the vocal cord as possible.

“The vocal cords are what produce voice, and voice really is a vibratory function of the body,” elaborated Philip Weissbrod, MD, associate professor of surgery and director of Center for Voice and Swallowing at UC San Diego Health.

Before and after the procedure, Rich worked with speech-language pathologists who specialize in music training to help him regain his voice. The collaborative effort between surgeons and speech pathologists had him singing again in four weeks.

“And now he’s singing music that he didn’t 20 years ago,” added Walsh.

“So, big, big improvement and kind of surprising,” concluded Dr. Weissbrod.

And he doesn’t have to give up what he loves most!

Symptoms of vocal cord cancer include voice changes, a sore throat, trouble breathing or swallowing, lumps in the neck, and coughing up blood.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer; Julie Marks, Field Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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