Living With Throat Cancer
- Val Kilmer, 63, returned to acting for the first time in years in “Top Gun: Maverick.”
- Many fans want to know if the actor, who’s been dealing with the effects of having throat cancer since 2015, will be at the 2023 Oscars.
- Throat cancer is a type of head and neck cancer where cancerous cells begin in the throat, voice box or tonsils. Treatment may include radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy, targeted drug therapy and immunotherapy are all options.
- The human papillomavirus can lead to throat cancer. An HPV vaccine reduces your risk of throat cancer – and other HPV-related cancers.
It’s no wonder “Top Gun: Maverick” became the highest-grossing film of the year with nearly $1.5 billion. Marking the first time Kilmer has acted in years, it was an incredible site to see Kilmer back as Iceman next to Tom Cruise’s Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. Even Cruise said he cried during the emotional reunion.Read More
“When Iceman finally does speak aloud, the emotion he conveys — and creates in the viewer — will have you looking back over his long career wondering how he’s never been nominated for an Oscar,” Los Angeles Times writer Michael Ordoña reports. “But it’s what he does wordlessly in his ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ cameo, and its connection to his own life, that speaks volumes.”
Now, the movie has received six Oscar nominations including ones for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Original Song, Best Visual Effects and Best Sound.
Kilmer has not given any details about whether he will be there on Hollywood’s big night to support the film. But he should rest assured that his appearance in the beloved movie was a victory all on its own.
RELATED: ‘Top Gun’ Actor Val Kilmer, 63, Admits ‘He Behaved Poorly’ On Movie Sets– Managing After Effects of Very Tough Cancer Treatment
Val Kilmer’s Throat Cancer Battle
While Kilmer was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2015, he didn’t speak publicly about the disease until 2017.
At first, he didn’t consider conventional treatment, reportedly thinking his Christian Science faith would heal the tumors, but all that changed when he thought of his children.
For treatment, Kilmer has undergone chemotherapy and multiple tracheostomies – surgical procedures that connect the windpipe to a hole in the front of the neck. While he said he no longer has cancer, he has said he still deals with some of the side effects of having the disease. For example, he received food through a feeding tube connected to his stomach, since he can’t take in food orally. And he has had to find other ways to communicate with people. If he wants to speak, placing a finger over the opening in his throat can help.
RELATED: A Woman’s Throat Cancer Mistaken For Tonsillitis For A Year– How To Push Your Doctor For Answers That Matter
He originally opted to keep his cancer battle out of the public eye, but Kilmer eventually opened up about his journey through interviews, his memoir, “I’m Your Huckleberry,” and his documentary, “Val.”
“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.”
What Is Throat Cancer?
Throat cancer is a type of head and neck cancer where cancerous cells begin in the throat, voice box or tonsils.
Treatment for throat cancer depends on factors such as the location and stage of your throat cancer, the type of cells involved, whether the cells show signs of a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, your overall health and your personal preferences. Radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy, targeted drug therapy and immunotherapy are all treatment options. You should talk with your doctor about what treatments would be most appropriate for you.
Some of the main risk factors for this disease include the following:
- Drinking alcohol
- A diet lacking in fruits or vegetables
- Acid reflux disease
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
Get the Facts: HPV Can Cause Cancer in Men Too
Dr. Jessica Geiger, a medical oncologist at Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center, talked about the link between throat cancer and HPV in a previous interview with SurvivorNet.
“There are no screening guidelines to screen for throat cancer, unlike cervical cancer with pap smears. And there are no standard tests to determine if you harbor the [HPV] virus,” Dr. Geiger said. “However, there is no concern that you’re going to spread this cancer to your partner or to anyone else, because at this point your partner has already been exposed to the virus and likely cleared it.”
Since there’s no annual screening for throat cancer, doctors usually discover the disease when a patient sees them with symptoms. Some signs and symptoms include:
- A cough
- Changes in your voice
- Difficulty swallowing
- Ear pain
- A lump or sore that doesn’t heal
- A sore throat
- Weight loss
Note that these symptoms are not exclusive to throat cancer. Even still, you should always see a doctor if you have any changes to your health.
Adding His Voice to the Chorus — Artist and Cancer Survivor Michael Rees Gets Behind HPV Vaccine Awareness
And one way to decrease your risk of developing throat cancer is to get the HPV vaccine.
“We have a safe and effective vaccine to prevent HPV-related cancer,” Dr. Susan Vadaparampil, the associate center director of community outreach, engagement and equity at Moffitt Cancer Center, previously told SurvivorNet . “It is widely available, and costs are typically covered by private or public insurance.”
Eileen Duffey-Lind, a pediatric nurse practitioner at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Boston Children’s Hospital, shared Dr. Vadaparampil’s sentiment.
“No one should die of a preventable cancer like those tied to HPV, especially since we have a highly effective and safe vaccine available,” Duffey-Lind said.
The three types of HPV vaccines – Gardasil 9, Gardasil and Cervarix – all went through years of extensive safety testing before being approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the CDC reports that HPV vaccination has the potential to prevent more than 90 percent of HPV-attributable cancers.
But who should get the HPV vaccine? According to the CDC, it is recommended for all preteens (both girls and boys) 11 to 12 years old in two doses administered between six and 12 months apart. The series of shots can also be started as early as 9 years old.
The CDC also says teens and young adults through age 26 who didn’t start or finish the HPV vaccine series also need the vaccine. And people with weakened immune systems or teens and young adults who start the series between the ages of 15 and 26 should get three doses instead of two.
Moreover, the HPV vaccine is sometimes administered in adults up to 45 years old, but it is not recommended for everyone older than 26. Still, a person older than 26 might decide to get vaccinated after talking to their doctor about possible benefits even though it is less effective in this age range since more people have already been exposed to HPV by this time.
Learn more about SurvivorNet's rigorous medical review process.