I went for a routine dental checkup – then was diagnosed with mouth cancer and had half my tongue cut out

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I went for a routine dental checkup – then was diagnosed with mouth cancer and had half my tongue cut out

A model has shared her ordeal after a routine dentist appointment sparked her deadly cancer battle.Elizabeth Brown Lax, now 45 and from Henderson, Nev

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A model has shared her ordeal after a routine dentist appointment sparked her deadly cancer battle.

Elizabeth Brown Lax, now 45 and from Henderson, Nevada, said her dentist was ‘checking my tongue as usual and felt a lump.’

She was diagnosed with stage one oral squamous cell carcinoma which is normally harmless and had a small piece of her tongue cut out.

But a year later when ‘unbearable’ pain erupted in her ear, doctors said the cancer had returned and was now stage three — meaning it had spread to her lymph nodes.

She was sent for a 12-hour procedure where doctors cut out half her tongue and part of her jaw before rebuilding them using tissue and bone from her leg — an operation which caused her face to swell.

Elizabeth Brown Lax, now 45 and from Nevada, was diagnosed with mouth cancer after doctors spotted a lump on her tongue. She is pictured above after surgery

Elizabeth Brown Lax, now 45 and from Nevada, was diagnosed with mouth cancer after doctors spotted a lump on her tongue. She is pictured above after surgery

Elizabeth Brown Lax, now 45 and from Nevada, was diagnosed with mouth cancer after doctors spotted a lump on her tongue. She is pictured above after surgery

The cancer was initially stage one and removed with minor surgery. But a year later it had returned and was stage three, meaning it had spread to lymph nodes near the tongue. Ms Lax had half her tongue and parts of her jaw removed in order to treat the cancer. She is pictured after surgery with the scar across her face

The cancer was initially stage one and removed with minor surgery. But a year later it had returned and was stage three, meaning it had spread to lymph nodes near the tongue. Ms Lax had half her tongue and parts of her jaw removed in order to treat the cancer. She is pictured after surgery with the scar across her face

The cancer was initially stage one and removed with minor surgery. But a year later it had returned and was stage three, meaning it had spread to lymph nodes near the tongue. Ms Lax had half her tongue and parts of her jaw removed in order to treat the cancer. She is pictured after surgery with the scar across her face

Ms Lax has now recovered and the cancer has not returned, and she has resumed working in the media in production.

The singer and on-camera host, also known as Elly, also has lichen planus, a condition where the immune system attacks the skin causing purplish, flat-topped and itchy bumps or lesions to appear. 

The condition is uncommon, affecting about one to two percent of Americans who are typically between 30 and 60 years old.

But patients who have it are sent for regular oral check-ups to monitor lesions in their mouth and for any cancers which may emerge.

Lichen planus may raise the risk of mouth cancer in long-term cases because of the persistent inflammation.

Oral squamous cell carcinoma is diagnosed in about 54,000 adults every year — and is more than twice as likely to occur in men compared to women.

About 70 percent of those diagnosed with the cancer live for more than five years after their diagnosis, according to the American Cancer Society.

Five-year survival rates are as high as 84 percent for those who have the cancer diagnosed in the early stages, but they drop to 41 percent when the cancer is not detected until it has spread to other parts of the body.

Describing when she was diagnosed in 2017 at the age of 39, Ms Lax said: ‘My oral surgeon was checking my tongue as usual and felt a lump.’

‘He actually said: “I don’t like the look of that” – which is not exactly what you want to hear from your oral surgeon, but my lichen planus had been getting worse for years.

‘He took a biopsy and it came back positive for cancer; squamous cell carcinoma.’

Ms Lax didn't look in the mirror for a few days after surgery, she said, but when she did she described the lump as looking like a volleyball

Ms Lax didn't look in the mirror for a few days after surgery, she said, but when she did she described the lump as looking like a volleyball

Ms Lax didn’t look in the mirror for a few days after surgery, she said, but when she did she described the lump as looking like a volleyball

She was also given a tracheostomy, where a hole is opened in her neck

She was also given a tracheostomy, where a hole is opened in her neck

This allowed her to eat and breathe through this until her mouth had healed

This allowed her to eat and breathe through this until her mouth had healed

She was also given a tracheostomy, where a hole is opened in her neck (pictured) to allow her to eat and breathe through this until her mouth had healed

Ma Lax is pictured above following the surgery. The scar is visible through her lip and down to her chin

Ma Lax is pictured above following the surgery. The scar is visible through her lip and down to her chin

Ma Lax is pictured above following the surgery. The scar is visible through her lip and down to her chin

She added: ‘No one can fully prepare you for being told you have cancer. For about a week, I couldn’t eat, sleep or concentrate.’

‘I remember going to my regular hairdresser appointment and just being on the edge of tears, scared that all my hair was going to fall out anyway [even though I’d not had chemotherapy yet].’

Doctors removed the lump in a minor surgery but were unable to follow up with radiotherapy because of her lichen planus.

But then a year later she started to have pain in her ear which quickly became ‘unbearable’, leading doctors to determine the cancer had returned. 

‘I went back and demanded to be re-scanned and re-biopsied,’ she said, ‘and that’s when it turned out that the cancer had returned, and it was stage three’.

‘I remember when my surgeons told me what they would have to do to my body to save me.

‘They said I needed a hemiglossectomy — getting half of my tongue removed — and a mandibulectomy, replacing my jaw bone with bone from my leg.

‘I’d also need a tracheostomy so I could breathe in the hospital and a feeding tube for five months.

‘And I’d have a big scar running from my lip, down my chin, and around my jaw.’

A tracheostomy is when doctors make a small hole at the base of the neck connected to the trachea, or windpipe, to allow someone to breathe and eat without using their mouth.

In May 2018, Ms Lax went for the 12-hour surgeries which also saw them rebuild her tongue and jaw flap using tissue from her leg.

She said: ‘My plastic surgeon and her team were very compassionate and did their best to preserve the natural shape of my face.

‘Not an easy task!

‘After removing the tumour, they got the tissue they needed from my leg and reconstructed my face.

‘I was in the hospital recovering for about nine days, with drains all over my body that came out over time.’

Ms Lax, who is also a singer and on-camera presenter, is pictured above after surgery

Ms Lax, who is also a singer and on-camera presenter, is pictured above after surgery

Ms Lax, who is also a singer and on-camera presenter, is pictured above after surgery

Doctors rebuilt her jaw and tongue using tissue grafted from her leg (pictured)

Doctors rebuilt her jaw and tongue using tissue grafted from her leg (pictured)

Doctors rebuilt her jaw and tongue using tissue grafted from her leg (pictured)

The scar from her tracheostomy is pictured above

The scar from her tracheostomy is pictured above

The scar from her tracheostomy is pictured above

Ms Lax is pictured above with her boyfriend

Ms Lax is pictured above with her boyfriend

Ms Lax is pictured above with her boyfriend

She said she was very pleased with the work put in by doctors to preserve her facial features as much as possible

She said she was very pleased with the work put in by doctors to preserve her facial features as much as possible

She said she was very pleased with the work put in by doctors to preserve her facial features as much as possible

She said she was very pleased with the work put in by doctors to preserve her facial features as much as possible

She said she was very pleased with the work put in by doctors to preserve her facial features as much as possible

A few days after the surgery, she decided to take a look in the mirror. 

‘I didn’t look in a mirror the first few days,’ she said. ‘But when I finally did, I remember being impressed by all they had done to save my life.

‘The left side of my face was as big as a volleyball. The stitches were fresh and deep.

‘No one wants to look in the mirror and see so much physical trauma, but I knew how fortunate I was to be alive.’

She then received chemotherapy and radiation therapy and had to learn to walk again because of the surgery on her leg.

She said: ‘I had to take everything a day at a time.

‘The feeding tube was rough and getting sick from chemo was awful.

‘But friends and family came out to be with me and we made the best of it.

‘My family did everything they could to help me, including wheeling me to the dog park in my wheelchair so that I could play with dogs.’

In 2020, Ms Lax also had surgery to treat the scar on her face.

She now has a scan every year to check that she is oral-cancer free and the scans have been clear since.

In the years since her diagnosis, Ms Lax has also found a new career path, as vice president of production at Network Media.

She added: ‘Thankfully, I have been oral cancer-free ever since my aggressive treatment five years ago.

‘These days, I’m feeling wonderful and full of gratitude.

‘I’m healthy and I can do everything I couldn’t do during my treatment: breathe on my own, walk and exercise, chew and swallow, speak and sing.

‘It is also my deepest hope that anyone who hears my story will help spread the word about these types of cancers, and encourage their friends and family to get early treatment for any strange symptoms.’

Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk

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