Today I had another followup visit with my ENT, who did the surgery on my tongue and neck. That’s the thing about cancer – it’s almost like a lifetime of followups after treatment, although the span between followups gets longer and longer as you go along.
Within the past couple of weeks I noticed a bump on my tongue, near the back. It isn’t painful in and of itself, but it rubs against the back of my palate, which makes that spot red and sore. Since my followup was coming, I made a mental note to ask him about the bump while he poked and prodded,
He looked at it, gave it a poke (which didn’t hurt), and said it looked like a granuloma – a benign tissue growth that occurs due to trauma/healing. But, naturally given my recent history, we had to have a sample to send off to the pathology lab.
People think of “a sample” and think it’s just a minor thing, a piece of flesh to be passed along, and off you go. Would that it were so easy. Would you like a step by step? Sure you would.
First, in my opinion, pain in the mouth is the absolute worst. I’ve had knee injuries, wounds that required debriding to remove gravel and clay, pulled muscles, and so on – the consequences of an active and athletic life. But I’ve always disliked dental work in general, and then this cancer business demonstrated to me that for me, my opinion is spot on about pain in the mouth area.
So, first we get a spray of a numbing agent on the tongue. This is just to help calm things when the doctor then pulls out the syringe of novocaine. The needle is a small gauge needle, but that’s no consolation when you get injections directly into the tongue in multiple places. Since my tongue (still) has not fully healed from radiation, this results in multiple bleeding areas as it’s still very sensitive.
Then, we wait a few minutes while the novocaine kicks in. During this time, they gather their rather scary-looking instruments, the bottle to hold the samples, and, in my case, lots of gauze to blot the blood. Also, swabs, peroxide, and silver nitrate (used to seal the wounds).
The samples. I believe I mentioned way back when that the first biospy I had to endure led to a second biopsy because that doctor did not take a large enough or deep enough sample for the pathologist. This ENT, however, is much more thorough, and took half a dozen samples, all of which were pretty substantial (remember, here, that “substantial” means a few centimeters – they’re not cutting out huge swaths of tissue). I looked at them after the tech sealed the bottle and the biohazard bag, and felt good about there not being a need for another round of samples this time. He was rather surprised when we told him we had to go through it twice the first time, and said that we’d make sure it was a one shot deal this time.
After the samples, quite a bit of blotting, since by this time, my mouth is full of blood. A few swabs of peroxide, and some dabbing of silver nitrate, and that’s it. I was left with a foul-taste in my mouth – since my taste buds have been back in fairly good operation since about a month after treatment ended – and quite a bit of spit and more blood. Just as with the dentist, time to spit.
And with that, we were done. I have to go back next week for the results from the pathologisst and what our next step will be, whether it’s benign or more serious. The ENT says they can use the laser to shave down the bump and excise it, and I’m all in favor of that, as it’s the same procedure I went through originally. The lack of stitching on the wound once the surgery is completed with the laser is, in my opinion, an excellent thing. Not just because it means one less visit into the mouth, to remove stitches, but because the post-surgical swelling and healing makes a big difference in how much tissue is present as healing progresses – after all, my tongue looks like it’s missing only a little less than a quarter of its original size despite the fact that almost half was removed. Bonus.
So we’ll see wha we have here and move on. Just like always.