UPDATE: Michael Douglas Battling Stage IV Throat Cancer

September 2, 2010
Sean Johnson

Michael Douglas, who was diagnosed with throat cancer last month, appeared on Late Night with David Letterman earlier this week, and he revealed that he is battling Stage IV throat cancer. But are there any positives from this story?

Michael Douglas, who was diagnosed with throat cancer last month, appeared on Late Night with David Letterman earlier this week, and he revealed that he is battling Stage IV throat cancer. The news isn’t that much of a shock considering Douglas’s past smoking habit and alcohol abuse, both of which he admits probably contributed to his disease.

Douglas was initially diagnosed in early August when he went to be evaluated for a sore throat and ear pain. He has already begun an eight-week process of radiation and chemotherapy, which is known to cause throat soreness and can sometimes necessitate the use of a feeding tube to receive nourishment.

Letterman asked Douglas point blank about his survival odds, and Douglas reported that he has an 80% chance of recovery, with those odds potentially improving depending on where he receives his treatment.

The headlines that this story has produced have called to attention the importance of staging when it comes to cancer. As staging has evolved over time, it has allowed oncologists to more accurately and effectively plan a regimen to combat the disease. Unfortunately for Douglas, his Stage IV cancer means that the cancer has spread, although he did tell David Letterman that it is currently confined to the head and neck and has not spread below to his body.

The other lesson that can be taken from this is the importance of receiving treatment when one’s body does not feel right. Studies have shown that men tend to go to the doctor much less than women, and in this case, it was critical that Douglas went to get checked out for his ear and throat pain when he did.

The good news is that, when a celebrity of Douglas’ status becomes ill, it shines a light on how people’s decisions and habits do have consequences, and it acts as a reality check. Medical advancements have certainly improved patients’ odds when it comes to situations like this, but in the end, leading a healthy lifestyle is the best preventative care.