Understanding Throat Cancer
- On the heels of throat cancer survivor Val Kilmer’s brief Top Gun: Maverick cameo, the actor took to Instagram to share a heartfelt message about his co-star, Tom Cruise.
- Kilmer was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2015, but he didn’t speak publicly of the disease until 2017.
- It’s more common to know someone who has throat cancer now-a-days than it was several decades ago. That’s because of the strong connection between throat cancer and HPV.
- It’s unknown what caused Kilmer’s throat cancer, but medical experts say that HPV causes more than 90% of throat cancers.
The Los Angeles, Calif., native Kilmer plays Tom “Iceman” Kazansky, and Cruise plays Pete “Maverick” Mitchell; in the movie, there’s a scene where they’re reunited, and according to Page Six, the fondness between the two actors “didn’t take much acting.”Read More
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During a previous interview with Metro, Cruise spoke about his reunion with Kilmer. He said of their reunion, “It was lovely. The whole experience, you know, 36 years to make this film.”
“There were so many moments in making it that were very special, incredibly unique,” he added. “(Kilmer is an actor that I greatly admire, so it was wonderful.”
The highly anticipated sequel to the 1986 classic Top Gun was released last month, and Kilmer was part of the action. But given that he’s used a voice box to speak since his throat cancer battle, the actor’s voice returned to film in a different way.
Artificial intelligence company Sonantic has gathered decades of old voice clips and audio recordings of Kilmer in order to bring his voice back to life.
According to the company, Sonantic was contacted by Kilmer’s team to see if they could use their artificial intelligence software to recreate Kilmer’s voice for upcoming creative work.
In a statement, Val Kilmer said Sonantic “restored my voice in a way I’ve never imagined possible.”
Val Kilmer’s Cancer Battle
Val Kilmer was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2015, but he didn’t speak publicly of the disease until 2017.
He wasn’t considering conventional treatment at first, thinking his Christian Science faith would heal the tumors, but he eventually agreed to undergo chemotherapy for the sake of his children: Mercedes, 30, and Jack, 26, whom he had with his ex-wife, English actress Joanne Whalley, 60.
He also underwent a tracheotomy (a surgical procedure that connects the windpipe to a hole in the front of the neck), which greatly impacted his speaking voice.
And though he originally kept his cancer battle out of the public eye, Kilmer eventually shared more about his journey through interviews, his memoir, I’m Your Huckleberry, and his documentary, Val, which is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
“I have been healed of cancer for over four years now, and there has never been any recurrence,” he wrote in I’m Your Huckleberry. “I am so grateful.”
Understanding Throat Cancer
Throat cancer is a type of head and neck cancer; cancerous cells begin in the throat, voice box or tonsils, causing throat cancer.
It’s much more common to know someone who has throat cancer now-a-days than it was several decades ago.
That’s because of the strong connection between throat cancer and the human papillomavirus, or HPV, which is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. It’s unknown what caused Val Kilmer’s throat cancer, but medical experts say that HPV causes more than 90% of throat cancers.
“From the 1980s to the 2010s, the rate of HPV-related head and neck cancers has gone up by 300 percent,” Dr. Ted Teknos, a head and neck cancer specialist, and president and scientific director of University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center in Cleveland, Ohio, told SurvivorNet during a previous interview.
The vast majority of humans in the United States — both men and women — will eventually get infected with HPV, according to Dr. Allen Ho, a head and neck surgeon at Cedars-Sinai.
“The important thing to know about HPV is that there are many different strains, and only a couple of them tend to be more cancer-inducing,” he said. “Probably less than 1 percent of the population who get infected happen to have the cancer-causing virus that somehow their immune system fails to clear, and over 15 to 20 years it develops from a viral infection into a tumor, and a cancer.”
It’s unclear whether HPV alone is enough to trigger the changes in your cells that lead to throat cancer, or whether this happens in combination with other risk factors like smoking. Of course, some people who develop throat cancer have no known risk factors for the condition. Genetics can play a role in this cancer, too. It’s unclear if Kilmer has a history of smoking, or whether he has a history of cancer in his family.
Throat cancer is unique in that it’s usually preventable with the HPV vaccine. And that’s why those eligible should get vaccinated against HPV, SurvivorNet experts say.
The vaccine is typically given to children before they are sexually active, as HPV is transmitted through sexual contact.
And contrary to some detrimental misinformation circulated online, the HPV vaccine is entirely safe.
There are virtually no side effects with this vaccine, Dr. Jonathan Berek, director of the Women’s Cancer Center at Stanford Medical Center, previously told SurvivorNet.
It is “incredibly safe,” he added.