Silent No More
Story by Brian P.J. Cronin
Photographed by dKol Photography
As a dentist who spends both his work hours and his leisure hours in close proximity to medical professionals, one would think that if Dr. Larry Hamburg had a baseball-sized growth in his neck, someone would have noticed it. That wasn’t the case.
“There was no visible evidence of swelling,” Hamburg said. “So you say, ‘Okay, well, if it clearly wasn’t protruding out, then it must have been protruding in,’ but you’d think that would mean that you’d have trouble swallowing. But I had no trouble swallowing. There were no symptoms. And that’s why we call oral cancer a silent killer.”
By the time the growth in his neck had swelled to the point where it could be noticed—Hamburg finally began to realize something was wrong when he couldn’t comfortably button his shirt collar anymore—it had developed into Stage IV oral cancer, with a one-in-five chance that he’d survive. And if he did, he learned that his life could be changed forever. “Oral cancer has the highest rate of disability of any other kind of cancer,” he said. “Even if they survive, many people have a miserable life because of it. The surgery can be extremely disfiguring.”