So we finally made a decision about which surgeon to go with. If you've been keeping up with the blogs, the choice was between Dr. David Moore at the Swedish Cancer Institute or Dr. Neal Futran (pronounced Few-tran) at the University of Washington Medical Center. Both seem to be excellent surgeons with plenty of experience treating head and neck cancers.
One of our concerns this week was whether or not Dr. Futran would really be able to get the entire tumor out through the mouth. Dr. Futran called me on Monday morning and we talked about the PET scan results and he assured me that they WILL get the whole tumor out. He feels very confident that it can be done through the mouth, but if for some reason it can't be done that way he can cut around the tongue and drop it back into the throat, and then remove the tumor through an incision in the throat. He told me that he doesn't like to cut the jaw because it doesn't heal as well and it leaves scars, and for this type of tumor he can get to it just as easily from the throat if needed. He only splits the jaw if he really needs to like for a tumor in the tonsil area. Dr. Futran also told me that he would review my PET scan results on Wednesday with his board, and he'll let me know if anything changes.
We visited Dr. Todd Barnett, a radiation oncologist who was recommended by Dr. Moore. After explaining the type of equipment and techniques they use for radiation treatment, Grace and I were less fearful. I had thought that radiation would destroy my tastebuds and saliva glands, but Dr. Barnett said that with the new techniques the should be able to spare much of my taste and most likely one of my main salivary glands on my left cheek.
Dr. Barnett has treated both Dr. Moore and Dr. Futran's patients, and he said that both are excellent surgeons and he assured me that both will get the tumor out of me one way or another. If the doctors recommend radiation, I suppose I will have to get it, but we're still praying that I won't need it.
Dr. Futran called me after dinner and told me that his team reviewed the PET scan and they will move forward with the same plan, but they want to make a small incision on my left neck to sample a lymph node that lit up in the scan. After that Grace and I weighed the pros and cons of each doctor, and we came to a conclusion. Here is a brief summary of why we chose Dr. Futran:
1) Not that credientials mean everything, but Dr. Futran is very well respected nationally for treating head and neck cancers. He also holds double degrees in oral and maxillofacial surgery as well as otolaryngology. Not to mention that the University of Washington Medical Center ("the U") is one of the top cancer treatment centers in the US, whereas the Swedish Cancer Institute does not have that reputation.
2) We feel that Dr. Futran is more reasonable in his approaches. If Dr. Futran could not get the tumor out through the mouth he would do it through the throat. Dr. Moore's choice would be to cut the jaw to get to the tumor since he does not believe it can be done solely through the mouth. After discussing the throat option with Dr. Futran, this seemed like a better approach if needed. Dr. Futran, however, is still very optimistic about getting it out through the mouth.
3) We just didn't feel as comfortable with Dr. Moore in our two consultations with him. In our two visits with Dr. Futran we felt much more comfortable talking to him.
We went to UW for our pre-op visit. During the visit Dr. Futran took another look at my tongue and mentioned that he still feels like he can get it out through the mouth. He also spent some time explaining where he would make incisions in the neck and assured us that the won't hit any nerves or arteries. This visit pretty much sealed the deal with Dr. Futran.
In summary, after much prayer Grace and I feel very comfortable with Dr. Futran and his approach to my treatment. The other great thing about being treated at UW is that Grace and I love the University. Since moving to Washington we've always had a longing to live near "The U". Well, I guess this is the next best thing.