Throat cancer

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Throat cancer

Hi. I am a 61 year old man who has been recently diagnosed with throat cancer. I am not surprised at all. I have been smoking for 46 years. I had two CAT scans, of the throat and of the lungs. The lung scan showed a spot. Now they want a PET scan to further investigate. In the meantime I consulted with the MD who would do radiation on my throat. His description of the effects it would have on me was scary. And it would take up to a year or more to recover. It would also involve chemo.  I decided to forgo the treatment. It would have been over 30 treatments for 6 1/2 weeks. I thought about Dad, who went through radiation and chemo for colon cancer and told me if the disease didn"t kill you, the treatment sure would.

    When I found out I had cancer, I went through a whole lot of emotions. I have calmed after a month and settled down. I want to ask when would it be appropriate to tell family and old friends. I'm not looking for sympathy. I just don't know if I should keep it secret from some and tell others or what. I don't want to hurt peoples' feelings. My dad told some, others didn't know until he was gone and they were shocked at not being told. I would appreciate any comment on this. Thank you so much.


Re: Throat cancer

It's a tough decision to make and one I thought I'd be making myself only a couple of months ago (my cancer turned out to be a different type than they first thought so that totally changed the treatment options).  Having seen several people go through treatment for head and neck cancers, I knew that I would decline treatment in favour of a better quality of life for a shorter period.  So I fully understand your choice.


Tell the people you think will support you and the people with whom you want to spend time.  You don't need to tell everyone you know.  No-one has an automatic right to know and it gets exhausting and intrusive if too many people are bothering you for information.

As for when, I would think about what kind of time you want to spend with people.  Are there things you want to do with close family and friends before your health deteriorates further or is it really just their company and support you want no matter your state of health?

I don't think there's a "right" time, but I told people in stages - family first and then a handful of close friends a few weeks later.  If you want people to keep it to themselves, make sure you tell them that, too.


Feel free to drop in just to chat.  It helps sort out the mental clutter.


Have you talked to your specialists about palliative care?  It's as much about giving you the best quality of life possible while you're relatively healthy as it is about end of life care and it's good to get them involved earlier so you're already plugged in when your care needs change.

Super Contributor

Re: Throat cancer

Hi leemarley,

I'm sorry to hear about your diagnosis.

I don't think that there is really a right or wrong time to tell people. 

I think there's just what is right for your situation.


When I was diagnosed with cancer I first told my immediate family and then siblings and parents.

I've never been particularly concerned about keeping my cancer diagnosis secret. I've been quite open about it.  I discussed it with my manager and C-level executives at my work place.

It's never been a problem.

I guess it comes down to yourself and your personal situation.

Do you have specific concerns about telling/discussing it with others?



Super Contributor

Re: Throat cancer

Hi Mate

I don't have any concrete advice, but I do think it'll be a subtle thing to navigate through.

Throat cancer after being a long term smoker, I think there's nuance to the way people react to that.

With cancer, and mortality in general, most people don't really have the tools at the ready to cope with the situation, so they kinda have to whack things together on the spot.  You get a lot of weird reactions.

And I reckon it's a chance for prejudice to come out, and maybe some anger ?

(But I also reckon the angrier someone gets, the more they love you, so keep that in mind)

It'll be a tricky thing to navigate through, I reckon, but I could be wrong.

You're the one with the life-threatening disease, you get to put yourself first and do what is best and healthiest for you --- but me personally, I'd probably take the path of careful disclosure in one-on-one conditions.

If someone wants to vent or cry or whatever, you let them, even though you're the one who is sick, you may also need to be the one who is strong.

I've seen cancer patients outside the hospital, smoking, directly under NO SMOKING signs.

Honestly, I felt a surge of disgust and quasi-anger at that.  I was fighting for my own life, my cancer brought about by bad luck - and these people were given a chance at survival, and still smoking, like a bunch of lemmings heedless about the oncoming cliff, you know ?

I reckon the people who care about you will carry some of that anger and bad feeling, and I just wanted to write this stuff down in case it helps you to prepare for unexpected reactions, mate.

Cancer is an absolute shit show, no matter the flavour, no matter the context, family situation, everbody gets it tough.  But I think your situation has that extra layer of trickiness to it.

People might tell you "you brought this on yourself", and use that anger and fear to justify running away - as human beings we all tend to leap to judgement instead of understanding.

Me ?  I've never smoked in my life, but I reckon ten years ago you were immortal.  You probably knew smoking was bad for you .. but .. c'mon.  You're immortal.  If that's totally off the mark, sorry.

Sounds from your post like you're taking it on the chin and have strength and maturity in how you're adapting to the situation (good on you).  It's not over yet, you need the strength and resources to fight, and ideally the support of loved ones.

Tell them, and hope for the best, is my two cents.  But do it one on one and if they get stuck on the smoking bit, help them to process it and push through that into the love and support space where you need them to be.

Cancer is a shit show 😕

Occasional Visitor

Re: Throat cancer

Leemarley, I hope all is going okay with the people you are starting to tell. I just wanted to add a bit to CaptainAustrali's comments about dealing with tricky situations. My mother was a smoker for the best part of three decades - and developed breast cancer, which moved to her lungs. In my view, she did not bring it on herself; I do not blame her one bit. I will never, ever forgive the cigarettes. It's not what you did or didn't do (every person on the planet could live a better life, after all) - it's those nasty little sticks.

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