Best Life: Doctors use tissue from thigh to replace woman’s tongue

Best Life: Woman learns to talk, eat, drink again after battling organ cancer

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— This year, more than 53,000 adults in the U.S. will be diagnosed with an oral cancer. Removing these types of cancers can affect how patients breathe, swallow, and talk. But, with a lot of practice, anything is possible.

For Cynthia Zamora, simply being able to talk is nothing short of miraculous. Three years ago, doctors found a tumor that covered more than half her tongue.

“And it’s like someone punched me in the stomach with it,” Zamora illustrated.

Surgeons had to remove most of Cynthia’s tongue– and then use tissue from her thigh to rebuild a new one.

Zamora added, “I probably have an eighth of a tongue and that’s a very small amount.”

The surgery left Cynthia unable to walk, eat, or talk. She couldn’t utter a word for three whole months. On top of that, she also had chemo and radiation. And then, the long road to recovery.

“You have to want to be able to communicate, and I wanted that more than anything,” Zamora asserted.

Liza Blumenfeld, MA CCC-SLP, BCS Speech-Language Pathologist and Co-Director of Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health Head and Neck Center explained, “Grab your tongue with your teeth and try to talk without a tongue. It’s one of those parts of your body that’s extraordinarily complex, and yet we completely take it for granted.”

Blumenfeld helped Cynthia learn to talk, eat, drink and swallow. She persistently practices slowing her speech, exaggerating sounds, and compensating with her lips and vocal cords. Her results have impressed everyone.

“It’s incredibly gratifying to see how well she’s done, and she’s done a lot of hard work,” elaborated Joseph Califano III, MD, Physician in Chief of Moores Cancer Center and director of the Head and Neck Cancer Center.

And she plans to keep fighting.

Zamora exclaimed, “Don’t give up. Keep going. Be strong. Be stubborn. You can do it. You can!”

Doctors were able to spare the base of Cynthia’s original tongue, so she does have some, limited movement. Risk factors for tongue cancer include smoking, drinking, and having the HPV infection at a young age.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer; Julie Marks, Field Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

Copyright 2020 WMC. All rights reserved.