Model Elizabeth Brown Lax, 45, of Henderson, Nevada, faced a life-threatening cancer diagnosis following a dentist’s discovery of a lump on her tongue. After part of her tongue was removed, the cancer, initially deemed minor, escalated within a year to stage three, spreading to her lymph nodes.
Following a diagnosis of advanced cancer, Ms. Lax underwent a 12-hour surgery where surgeons removed half her tongue and part of her jaw, reconstructing them with tissue and bone from her leg. This procedure led to significant facial swelling. Ms. Lax has since recovered, with no cancer recurrence, and has returned to her media production career.
Elly, a singer and host who also suffers from lichen planus, an autoimmune condition that produces purplish, itchy skin lesions, endures regular oral check-ups. This rare condition affects 1-2% of Americans, mostly aged 30-60, and requires monitoring for potential oral cancers.
Lichen planus, due to chronic inflammation, can increase the risk of mouth cancer over time. Annually, around 54,000 adults are diagnosed with oral squamous cell carcinoma, with men being over twice as likely as women to develop it. The American Cancer Society notes that about 70% of those diagnosed survive beyond five years.
Early detection of oral cancer boasts a five-year survival rate of 84%, but this plummets to 41% when the disease has already metastasized. Recounting her 2017 diagnosis at 39, Ms Lax shared her oral surgeon’s concern upon discovering a lump during a routine examination. The worsening of her lichen planus over the years led to the biopsy that confirmed squamous cell carcinoma.
Ms. Lax described the overwhelming impact of her cancer diagnosis, causing her a week of sleeplessness, loss of appetite, and anxiety, fearing hair loss even before starting chemotherapy. After a minor surgery to remove the lump, her lichen planus condition prevented follow-up radiotherapy.
A year post-surgery, Ms. Lax suffered severe ear pain, revealing the cancer’s stage three resurgence. She underwent a hemiglossectomy and mandibulectomy, with a tracheostomy and a feeding tube for postoperative care, resulting in a significant scar from her lip to her jaw.
A tracheostomy involves creating an opening at the neck’s base to connect to the windpipe, aiding in breathing and eating. In May 2018, Ms. Lax had a 12-hour operation to reconstruct her tongue and jaw using leg tissue.
Ms. Lax praised her plastic surgery team’s effort to maintain her face’s natural shape during the complex procedure. Post-tumor removal, they reconstructed her face using tissue from her leg. She spent nine days in the hospital, gradually recovering as multiple drains were removed over time.
Days after her facial reconstruction, Ms. Lax braved a glance in the mirror, confronting the stark, post-operative reality. Despite the shock of seeing her significantly swollen and stitched face, she felt grateful for her survival. Post-surgery, she underwent chemotherapy and radiation, facing the additional challenge of relearning to walk due to the leg operation. Her journey required a daily focus on recovery.
Ms. Lax recounted the difficulties of her recovery, from the discomfort of a feeding tube to the unpleasant effects of chemotherapy. Support from loved ones was crucial, with family ensuring she enjoyed simple pleasures like visiting the dog park. In 2020, she underwent surgery to improve her facial scar. Annual scans show she remains oral-cancer-free since her treatment five years ago. Now thriving as a media VP, she advocates for awareness and early treatment of oral cancer, sharing her story to educate others. Read the full story: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-12702265/routine-dental-checkup-mouth-cancer.html?ito=msngallery
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