Ghatkopar resident, Dinesh Shah (name changed) has a peculiar problem. Since the past few weeks, he has been troubled by a hairy outgrowth at the oddest of places, his tongue.
The hair growth is a repercussion of the tongue cancer surgery that Shah underwent in February this year.
Shah was an avid gutka consumer, finishing up to fifteen packets a day since the past eight years. A few months back, while eating spicy food, a sore on his tongue started causing him pain. A biopsy performed on Shah’s tongue revealed that he had tongue cancer. “Our world came crashing down when the doctors informed us that they had to cut off a portion of the tongue to prevent the cancer from spreading. We agreed to the operation,” said Sarla, Shah’s wife. In a surgery conducted by a team of six doctors that lasted for eight hours, the anterior portion of Shah’s tongue was removed.
Doctors say that surgery, called ‘glossectomy’, is the best solution to halt the spread of tongue cancer. Radiation and chemotherapy often prove ineffective to kill the tumours.
Dr Vimal Jain, the leading oncosurgeon who operated upon Shah added that they had to cut a a portion of flesh from his right arm to reconstruct a makeshift tongue. “The hairy outgrowth is due to the skin taken from the patient’s arm. Eventual bouts of radiation will ensure that the hair on his makeshift tongue is destroyed but in the process, Shah will lose all his facial hair,” said Dr Wasim Phophlankar, oncologist at LH Hiranandani Hospital, Powai.
Shah’s problems don’t end there. He has now been left with no sense of taste in his mouth. “I can hardly experience any taste. The makeshift tongue only helps in swallowing and balancing liquid food. I have been relegated to drinking milk, fruit juices and glucose water,” he said.
Criticising the practice of eating gutka, Shah revealed that his peers who turned him into a Gutka junkie, are till date clandestinely getting their daily fix from their regular pan vendors. This in spite of the state wide ban on selling of gutka and pan masala declared by the government of Maharashtra in July this year.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research’s cancer registry, one lakh new cases of mouth cancer are identified every year.
“Of these, more than 40,000 cases are of tongue cancer. Ninety percent of tongue cancer cases are caused due to chewing of smoke less tobacco including gutka. One in thirty Indians are likely to develop mouth cancers including that of tongue is a lifetime,” said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, head of department, head and neck cancer at Tata Memorial Hospital in Parel.