Local comedian Andy Bumatai has been diagnosed with cancer.
Bumatai, who hosts an online series called “The Daily Pidgin,” made the announcement on his YouTube channel.
In a video, he explained cancer was found at the base of his tongue and in a lymph node on the side of his neck.
“How ironic is that? It’s like the gods telling me to shut up,” he said.
For the next four months, Bumatai will have to undergo chemotherapy and radiation or, as he calls them, “Kimo Therapy” and “Ray Diation.”
“Those buggahs can scrap, so I feel pretty good,” he joked.
Bumatai says he’s ready for the fight as this type of cancer responds well to treatment and has a very high success rate.
He also revealed another perspective: “Instead of being depressed, I’m actually happy, because it’s me and not someone else in my family.”
With Bumatai’s announcement, we wanted to know more about head and neck cancer. What are the signs and what causes it?
Dr. Lawrence Burgess is an ear, nose, and throat surgeon, and a professor at the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine.
“Head and neck cancer in Hawaii and nationwide are not as common as some of the other ones like breast cancer and colon cancer,” he said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only three percent of all cancers in the U.S. are head and neck cancers. They’re nearly twice as common among men as they are among women, and they’re more common among people over 50 years old.
Dr. Burgess says the amount of people diagnosed with head and neck cancers has actually gone down over the years.
“I think that’s because some of the more common previous reasons people got it is due to cigarette smoking and alcohol, so a lot of that has cut back a little bit,” he said.
A third potential cause is human papillomavirus (HPV), a group of more than 150 related sexually transmitted diseases. There are vaccines that can prevent infection with the most common types of HPV.
“I think prevention, healthy lifestyle, avoid tobacco products, moderate alcohol consumption, and good oral hygiene. These are all good things to help prevent it,” Burgess said.
As for treatments, Burgess says “if you have a smaller type of lesion, you might want to get surgery, because then you won’t have to go through radiotherapy or chemotherapy. The larger lesions, chemotherapy and radiation (should be) done together.”
He says rate of survival is good, especially when you compare it to some other forms of cancer.
“The cures and treatments are excellent. Sure, it’s still cancer, but depending on when you find the lesion and how early it is, you can get a good outcome,” Burgess said.
Some of the common signs and symptoms include a sore in your mouth that doesn’t seem to heal, a lump in your neck, and having a hard time swallowing.
If you have any of these symptoms or suspect something is wrong, see a doctor.