throat cancer

Michael Douglas, Greed, Cancer and Me

October 20, 2010 at 9:48 am , by

Update, June 2013: Ladies’ Home Journal has been reporting on the link between throat cancer and the HPV virus from oral sex since 2003. And we published this guest blog, below, in 2010. We were happy to learn this week that Michael Douglas is finally talking about this link in the media, which will help raise awareness.

According to a friend at Yahoo, searches for “throat cancer symptoms” are up more than 3,000 percent this month—“likely a result of actor Michael Douglas’ recent diagnosis,” she says. While I was sad when I heard Douglas was sick, I was hopeful that his ordeal might bring more awareness to this cancer, which is growing.

I first learned about the link between throat cancer and the human papillomavirus (HPV; the same virus that can cause cervical cancer) years ago when I heard a researcher present a paper on it. Yes, oral sex can transmit this very common virus between two people and then, years or decades later, may lead to cancer. It happened to my friend Steve. And to a famous chef. And to the husband of another friend. And now Michael Douglas. (We don’t have direct confirmation about Douglas’ HPV status but publications such as People magazine have mentioned it.) Yes, women get it, too. Steve’s cancer treatment was brutal but three years later, he’s feeling strong and is cancer free. I asked him to share his thoughts in this guest blog.

Michael Douglas, Greed, Cancer and Me

By Steve Reynolds

It’s impossible not to have noticed Michael Douglas lately, given the press and his recent sequel, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. A great actor, Douglas is cemented in the communal pop memory by his note-perfect performance in the 1987 film Wall Street.

It got me reminiscing about the ’80s, beyond yellow ties, pasta and cell phones the size of bricks. I was fresh from college, and New York was a blaring, braying juggernaut of energy, of greedy energy. “Greed is good.” It wasn’t just the guys in yellow ties who took that Gordon Gekko line literally. My own greed was a hunger to experience everything. I worked a job, did off-Broadway theater, partied as much as I could, had as much sex as I could. And now I wonder if it was then that I gave myself up to the HPV virus.

Douglas’ face and words are somehow part of those memories for me. And now here he is with the same disease: HPV-borne throat cancer, my throat cancer. He’s even being treated at the same hospital and maybe even by some of my same doctors. Read more