The John Theurer Cancer Center Encourages Head & Neck Cancer Survivors to Unmask at Annual Forum

Thursday, April 22, 2010 General News
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HACKENSACK, N.J., April 21 The John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center announced today a special event for head and neck cancer survivors and their loved ones hosted by the radiation oncology division. The Third Annual Head & Neck Cancer Forum: Unmasked is a celebration to build a strong support network and provide information for head and neck cancer survivors.

Head and neck cancer includes cancers of the mouth, nose, sinuses, salivary glands, throat, and lymph nodes in the neck. With 40,000 cases diagnosed annually, it is the sixth most common form of cancer in the United States. Due to the location of head and neck cancer, it often affects breathing, eating, voice, speaking, and appearance.

"Head and neck cancer is a very personal cancer with side effects that can be devastating to patients and their quality of life," said Loren Godfrey, M.D., Director, Brachytherapy, Radiation Oncology, John Theurer Cancer Center. "At the John Theurer Cancer Center, we understand the importance of ensuring our patients have a strong support system through our caring staff and inspirational network of cancer survivors."

Head and neck cancer survivors are invited to bring their decorated radiation masks to be displayed at the event. Other event festivities include a special performance by a John Theurer Cancer Center tongue cancer survivor, nutritious buffet dinner, and discussion about head and neck cancer survival.

The Meaning Behind "UnMasked"

The mask is a unique attribute to head and neck cancer treatment. Due to the necessary precise delivery of radiation, it is critical that patients do not move during treatment. Prior to initiating therapy, a mask is created in the exact mold of a patient's face. When attached to the radiation table, the mask is used as an immobilization device. Once their treatment is complete, many patients take the mask as a badge of courage.

"We see how frightening and traumatic the mask can be for head and neck cancer patients," said Robin McConnell, M.S., R.D., Clinical Nutrition Coordinator, John Theurer Cancer Center. "We want to aid in their recovery by giving them the opportunity to display this badge of courage next to other survivors."

The inspiration for the decorated mask display came from a John Theurer Cancer Center head and neck cancer survivor and artist. She proudly brought her mask decorated in hand knitted and felted "hair" for the staff to see and everyone was amazed with the emotional impact it had. Another survivor and artist, Teresa Lamicella, volunteered to curate the display. She also found therapy and comfort in decorating her mask.

Tongue Cancer Survivor Provides Special Performance

Don Farraro, a tongue cancer survivor and singer, will kick-off the evening with an extraordinary rendition of Frank Sinatra, accompanied by local singer, Tony Saxon. Mr. Farraro was diagnosed with stage-four tongue cancer five years ago, putting him at-risk to lose his voice. Singing was Mr. Farraro's passion, and he was gaining popularity in his community.

Mr. Farraro's treatment included a multidisciplinary approach lead by Dr. Godfrey and Robert Alter, M.D., Co-chief, Urologic Oncology, the John Theurer Cancer Center, who also specializes in head and neck cancers. After chemotherapy and radiation treatment for tongue cancer, Mr. Farraro was able to maintain his amazing voice, and will be sharing it at the event.

"Knowing the risks of this type of treatment, I was scared I'd never be able to sing again," said Mr. Farraro. "Thanks to the excellent care provided by Dr. Godfrey, Dr. Alter and the staff at the John Theurer Cancer Center I am still able to sing today. I am looking forward to spreading courage to other patients by performing at this event."

This special event for head and neck cancer survivors and caregivers will be held on Monday, April 26 from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm. It is free to attend; however, space is limited and registration is required by Wednesday, April 21. The event will be hosted in the Jurist Research Center located at Hackensack University Medical Center, 30 Prospect Ave., Hackensack, New Jersey. If you're interested in attending please contact Noelle Edwards at 201-996-2602 or

About the John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center

The John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center is New Jersey's largest and most comprehensive center dedicated to the diagnosis, treatment, management, research, screenings, and preventive care as well as survivorship of patients with all types of cancer. The 15 specialized divisions covering the complete spectrum of cancer care have developed a close-knit team of medical, research, nursing, and support staff with specialized expertise that translates into more advanced, focused care for all patients. Each year, more people in the New Jersey/New York metropolitan area turn to the John Theurer Cancer Center for cancer care than to any other facility in New Jersey. Housed within a 775-bed not-for-profit teaching, tertiary care, and research hospital, the John Theurer Cancer Center provides state-of-the-art technological advances, compassionate care, research innovations, medical expertise, and a full range of after care services that distinguish the John Theurer Cancer Center from other facilities.

SOURCE John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center

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