Marty's Journey

Laser Treatment Prevents Difficult Cancer Symptoms

A new high-tech treatment prevents mouth and throat sores that affect Marty's ability to eat, giving him the strength he needs to fight his cancer.


One of the biggest difficulties that many head and neck cancer patients like radio and TV personality Marty Griffin face is ulcers in the throat and mouth caused by radiation and chemotherapy. In Marty's case, radiation is targeting the HPV-related cancerous tumor at the base of his tongue, which means that cells in his mouth and throat will be hit and potentially damaged by those rays, causing sores. A treatment called Low Level Laser treatment is now being used at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center to help cells heal or even prevent these ulcers, keeping patients like Marty healthier as they battle their disease.

"When you have open sores in your mouth, you have a portal for infection," explained Annette Quinn, Clinical Research Manager, who administered Marty's laser treatments while Sparkt's cameras were rolling. "The mouth is full of a lot of bacteria and you're getting chemo which sometimes affects the way you can fight infection and if you have open sores you're going to be at risk for infection." Fewer or no ulcers also decreases mouth and throat pain that makes it difficult for a patient like Marty to eat regularly when the need for calories to fight cancer is greater.

It's really cool, kind of space-age to look at, and the way it works is interesting too, as you'll see when you watch our story:

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