More than a routine trip to the dentist
Oral cancer specialists at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital keep Larry moving forward
During a regular dental exam, Larry Staunton’s dentist noticed swelling and gum tissue pulled away from an infected tooth. He referred Larry to an oral surgeon who extracted the infected tooth and had it tested.
Unfortunately, the results came back as squamous cell carcinoma, a type of oral cancer. Larry was referred to one of the top oral
cancer experts, Dr. Daniel Karakla, a head and neck surgeon with Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS).
The Sentara EVMS Comprehensive Head and Neck Center, a quaternary program of the Sentara Cancer Network, offers innovative treatment and multidisciplinary care for tumors and conditions of the head, neck and thyroid. It provides medical and surgical intervention for sites including the mouth, lips, tonsils, thyroid, parathyroid, pharynx and larynx. The patients require expert treatment from head and neck surgeons and other oncology specialists, as well as a variety of tumor-site specific rehabilitative services, including nutrition counseling, speech therapy and psychological care.
Larry went for additional CT and PET scans, and the Sentara Cancer Network team reviewed his results as part of their weekly cancer conference. They concluded that the cancer had not spread, but Larry’s treatment would still be fairly involved.
Dr. Karakla removed approximately two-thirds of Larry’s jaw and 12 teeth to remove the cancer.
Next, Dr. Matthew J. Bak, an EVMS head and neck surgeon, removed part of Larry’s fibula bone and reconstructed a new jawbone.
“The surgeons did a great job. My friends and family were shocked at how good I looked, especially so soon out of surgery,” said Larry.
But Larry’s whole body had been affected, and he needed to learn to walk and talk again. After his recovery, he began daily physical therapy and speech therapy.
Speech therapy helped him adapt to changes in his mouth, while physical therapy helped him adjust to changes to his leg strength and overall balance. He went from a wheelchair to a walker and then from a cane to just his own feet.
“I couldn’t wait to exercise and get moving,” Larry said.