Engineers are often described as problem solvers - someone always working to find a solution. And that's exactly what Jim Bacon did after a cancerous tumor was found in his throat in November 2010. Determined to find a solution for a very real problem, the automotive engineer from South Lyon who has a family history of cancer, discussed his diagnosis with friends and family; he talked to various doctors and hospitals; and searched the Internet to find the best available treatment options.
After talking with Jan Akervall, M.D., co-director of the Head and Neck Cancer Multidisciplinary Clinic at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, Bacon, 54, was convinced that surgically removing the malignant tumor was the best approach.
"When I saw Dr. Akervall, the biopsy results confirmed I had cancer. The images looked like there was a mushroom growing inside my throat," says Bacon. "One of my first thoughts was, 'How do I fight this? I want it out.'"
Bacon, who drove nearly an hour one-way to Beaumont's Head and Neck Cancer Multidisciplinary Clinic for his appointments, also returned for endoscopic laser surgery to remove the tumor.
"The laser is used instead of instruments, such as scalpels, to cut through the tissues during surgery. Laser light is delivered through scopes placed down the throat," explains Dr. Akervall. "When you remove the tumor this way - through the mouth, or transorally - patients can eat and drink right away since there is less trauma than with traditional open surgery."
Beaumont's Head and Neck Cancer Multidisciplinary Clinic is staffed with highly trained physicians and surgeons who are recognized nationally and internationally for their ability to treat rare and complex cancers. With a single phone call to the Head and Neck Cancer Multidisciplinary Clinic, a nurse navigator is available to gather tests results and schedule any additional screenings.
Patients, like Jim Bacon, are scheduled to meet with a multidisciplinary team of head and cancer specialists to review their recommendations for treatment. Following that, appointments are scheduled, as necessary, on the same day. And before leaving the clinic, a plan of recommended treatment or further studies is determined.
"The reality is I could have gone months longer without knowing I had cancer," says Bacon, a nonsmoker whose early symptoms consisted of persistent throat irritation. The father of a 15-year-old girl and husband of 24 years says, "Looking back, I'm glad it was found sooner than later. And now, I have a greater appreciation of life, time and how I spend that time…I want to have more meaningful relationships with friends and family."
As diligent and precise as many engineers tend to be, it's two-years later and Jim Bacon continues with regular check-ups and follow-up care. He is cancer free and continues to be extraordinarily thankful.
"I feel very grateful for the care I received at Beaumont. Dr. Akervall is 'down to earth' and easy to talk to. I really appreciated how much time he took with me to explain things. I wanted to get answers. I needed to sort through this and Dr. Akervall and the staff were all very helpful."