Eddie Van Halen, the virtuoso guitarist whose innovative and blistering solos helped propel the band named after him into one of rock’s biggest acts in the 1980s, has died of cancer. He was 65.
Eddie Van Halen, who is the founder and main songwriter of Van Halen, has been struggling with severe health problems for the last few years. His health status might actually be changed this time.
Eddie Van Halen was diagnosed with tongue cancer earlier in 2000. Afterward, he underwent several treatments and beat cancer in 2002. However, it was discovered last year that Eddie has been traveling to Europe as a part of his throat cancer treatment.
Since the beginning of his tragic battle with cancer, Eddie’s health status had been changing day by day. In a recent interview with Rolling Stones, the former member of Van Halen, Sammy Hagar, also touched on the issue of Van Halen’s health.
Hagar mentioned the possibility of a reunion with Van Halen brothers and bassist Michael Anthony, but it failed since Eddie had back surgery. Additionally, Hagar stated that Eddie got through these diseases as far as he knows, and Eddie was doing okay for now.
Throat Cancer Explained
What is throat cancer?
Cancer is a class of diseases in which abnormal cells multiply and divide uncontrollably in the body. These abnormal cells form malignant growths called tumors.
Throat cancer refers to cancer of the voice box, the vocal cords, and other parts of the throat, such as the tonsils and oropharynx. Throat cancer is often grouped into two categories: pharyngeal cancer and laryngeal cancer.
Throat cancer is relatively uncommon in comparison to other cancers. The National Cancer Institute estimates that of adults in the United States:
about 1.2 percent will be diagnosed with oral cavity and pharyngeal cancer within their lifetime.
about 0.3 percent will be diagnosed with laryngeal cancer within their lifetime.
Types of throat cancer
Although all throat cancers involve the development and growth of abnormal cells, your doctor has to identify your specific type to determine the most effective treatment plan.
The two primary types of throat cancer are:
Squamous cell carcinoma. This type of throat cancer affects the flat cells lining the throat. It’s the most common throat cancer in the United States.
Adenocarcinoma. This type of throat cancer affects the glandular cells and is rare.
Two categories of throat cancer are:
Pharyngeal cancer. This cancer develops in the pharynx, which is the hollow tube that runs from behind your nose to the top of your windpipe. Pharyngeal cancers that develop in the neck and throat include:
nasopharynx cancer (upper part of the throat)
oropharynx cancer (middle part of the throat)
hypopharynx cancer (bottom part of the throat)
Laryngeal cancer. This cancer forms in the larynx, which is your voice box.
Recognizing potential signs of throat cancer
It can be difficult to detect throat cancer in its early stages. Common signs and symptoms of throat cancer include:
change in your voice
trouble swallowing (dysphagia)
constant need to clear your throat
persistent cough (may cough up blood)
swollen lymph nodes in the neck
Causes and risk factors for throat cancer
Men are more likely to develop throat cancer than women.
Certain lifestyle habits increase the risk of developing cancer of the throat, including:
excessive alcohol consumption
exposure to asbestos
poor dental hygiene
Throat cancer is also associated with certain types of human papillomavirus infections (HPV). HPV is a sexually transmitted virus. HPV infection is a risk factor for certain oropharyngeal cancers, according to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
Throat cancer has also been linked to other types of cancers. In fact, some people diagnosed with throat cancer are diagnosed with esophageal, lung, or bladder cancer at the same time. This may be because these cancers have some of the same risk factors.
Diagnosing throat cancer
At your appointment, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. If you’ve been experiencing symptoms such as a sore throat, hoarseness, and persistent cough with no improvement and no other explanation, they may suspect throat cancer.
If your doctor finds cancerous cells in your throat, they will order additional tests to identify the stage, or the extent, of your cancer. The stages range from 0 to 4:
Stage 0: The tumor is only on the top layer of cells of the affected part of the throat.
Stage 1: The tumor is less than 2 cm and limited to the part of the throat where it started.
Stage 2: The tumor is between 2 and 4 cm or may have grown into a nearby area.
Stage 3: The tumor is larger than 4 cm or has grown into other structures in the throat or has spread to one lymph node.
Stage 4: The tumor has spread to the lymph nodes or distant organs.
If the tumor in your throat is small, your doctor may surgically remove the tumor. This surgery is done in the hospital while you’re under sedation. Your doctor may recommend one of the following surgical procedures:
Endoscopic surgery. This procedure uses an endoscope (a long thin tube with a light and camera at the end) through which surgical instruments or lasers can be passed to treat early stage cancers.
Cordectomy. This procedure removes all or part of your vocal cords.
Laryngectomy. This procedure removes all or a portion of your voice box, depending on the severity of the cancer. Some people can speak normally after surgery. Some will learn how to speak without a voice box.
Pharyngectomy. This procedure removes a part of your throat.
Neck dissection. If throat cancer spreads within the neck, your doctor may remove some of your lymph nodes.
Following the removal of the tumor, your doctor may recommend radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to destroy malignant cancer cells. It targets any cancerous cells left behind by the tumor. Types of radiation therapy include:
Intensity-modulated radiotherapy and 3D-conformal radiation therapy. In both types of treatment, radiation beams are tailored to the shape of the tumor. This is the most common way radiation is given for laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancer.
Brachytherapy. Radioactive seeds are placed directly inside the tumor or close to the tumor. Although this type of radiation could be used for laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancer, it’s rare.
In the case of large tumors and tumors that have spread to the lymph nodes and other organs or tissue, your doctor may recommend chemotherapy as well as radiation. Chemotherapy is a drug that kills and slows the growth of malignant cells.
Targeted therapies are drugs that stop the spread and growth of cancer cells by interfering with specific molecules that are responsible for tumor growth. One type of targeted therapy used to treat throat cancer is cetuximab (Erbitux).
Other types of targeted therapy are being researched in clinical trials. Your doctor may recommend this therapy along with standard chemotherapy and radiation.
Some people with throat cancer require therapy after treatment to relearn how to speak. This can be improved by working with a speech therapist and a physical therapist.
In addition, some people with throat cancer experience complications. These may include:
disfigurement of the neck or face
inability to speak
skin hardening around the neck
Occupational therapists can help with swallowing difficulty. You can discuss reconstructive surgery with your doctor if you have face or neck disfigurement after surgery.
Long-term outlook for throat cancer
If diagnosed early, throat cancer has a high survival rate.
Throat cancer may not be curable once malignant cells spread to parts of the body beyond the neck and head. However, those diagnosed can continue treatment to prolong their life and slow the progression of the disease.
Preventing throat cancer
There’s no definitive way to prevent throat cancer, but you can take steps to reduce your risk:
Stop smoking. Use over-the-counter products such as nicotine replacement products to quit smoking, or talk to your doctor about prescription medications to help you quit.
Reduce alcohol intake. Men should consume no more than two alcoholic drinks per day, and women should consume no more than one alcoholic drink per day.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. Reduce fat and sodium intake and take steps to lose excess weight. Engage in physical activity at least 2.5 hours a week.
Reduce your risk of HPV. This virus has been linked to throat cancer. To protect yourself, practice safe sex. Also talk to your doctor about the benefits of the HPV vaccine.
Medically reviewed by Yamini Ranchod, Ph.D., M.S. — Written by Valencia Higuera — Updated on January 2, 2019