Several years ago, I met a young man with cancer of the nasopharynx. In those days, radiation therapy technology was much less precise. He received very high doses to the cancer and the surrounding tissues. 

Although he has remained free of cancer, he has experienced several of the disabling side effects of treatment, including loss of taste, difficulty swallowing, change in articulation and speech, disturbances in balance and hearing, and severe oral dryness.  

Eventually, the mouth dryness caused severe dental deterioration. His insurance company, which had always covered payment for the side effects, refused to pay anything to help with his dental complications. 

The insurance company's determination that his dental restoration would not be covered led to his determination that it should be. 

We talked about his experiences and he gave me permission to share his story. I was honored to have the resulting essay published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association. (JAMA).

His struggles are far from over. Perhaps more stories will emerge. In the meantime, please click here to read my essay, "Determination."

About the Author

Bruce Campbell, MD, grew up in the Chicago area, graduating from Purdue University and Rush Medical College. He completed an otolaryngology residency at the Medical College of Wisconsin and a head and neck surgery fellowship at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. He was a faculty member, ENT specialist and surgeon with Froedtert & MCW health network from 1987 until his retirement in 2021.

Nancy Mueller

I am going through a lot of problems right now. I cannot find a dentist who will call me back. I need someone "special" who understands the radiation effects. It is horrible to not be able to smile.

Lisa Kodadek

Dear Dr. Campbell,
Once again--a terrific contribution to JAMA! Congratulations. I hope all is well at MCW!