Michael Crichton

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Michael Crichton was an accomplished writer and filmmaker who contributed to many highly respected and entertaining projects. He was born on October 23, 1942, and died on November 4, 2008. He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College, and continued his studies at Harvard Medical School, where he received his MD. He began to write while a medical student, and his first bestseller, The Andromeda Strain, was published in 1969, when he was still at Harvard. He proceeded to write many more novels, such as The Great Train Robbery, Congo, Sphere, and Jurassic Park. He participated in various film and television projects, including Twister, E.R., and his most famous work, the 1993 Steven Spielberg adaptation of Jurassic Park. This classic film is the 16th highest-grossing movie of all time. He died in 2008, at age 66, after a private battle with cancer.

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What is throat cancer?
Throat cancer exists in many different forms. It can form in the tissues of the larynx, the pharynx, or both. The larynx is better known as the voice box, which contains the vocal cords. The pharynx is the hollow tube inside the neck that connects the nose to the esophagus. The causes of this cancer are wide and varied. The most common risk factors are smoking tobacco and simply aging. Other factors that increase the risk of throat cancer include heavy drinking, a diet poor in fruits and vegetables, or infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). The symptoms of throat cancer are also diverse. They include high-pitched breathing, bloody coughing, difficulty swallowing, persistent hoarseness or sore throat, neck pain, lumps on the neck, and uncontrollable weight loss. Most malignant growths that result from throat cancer are thin, flat carcinomas that resemble fish scales

These two videos are anti-tobacco ads that show the ways that tobacco companies market their products. In addition, these videos reveal the dangers of smoking even one cigarette, as the addictive qualities of tobacco can keep a person hooked on tobacco, ultimately resulting in thousands of preventable deaths.
The purpose of any treatment of throat cancer is to completely eradicate the carcinoma and prevent it from spreading. To diagnose a cancer of the throat, a doctor may perform an endoscopy test. This test involves the insertion of long, thin tubes with video cameras on the end into the airway, to look at the throat and respiratory tract inside the body. If anything suspicious is found, a biopsy will most likely be performed. Other methods, such as CT scans or MRIs, may be used to assess the extent to which the carcinoma has metastasized. In small tumors, chemotherapy or radiation can be effective in removing the tumor. The most serious forms of throat cancer may require a laryngectomy (removal of the vocal cords) or other types of major surgery. This surgery can involve removal of parts of the throat, mouth or jaw. The patient’s ability to speak, chew, swallow, or breathe may be impeded. Reconstructive surgery can restore appearance and speech, and prosthetics can help replace lost sections of the mouth, gums, or jaw. In the most serious cases, the use of a feeding or breathing tube (tracheostomy), or a robotic voice aid may be necessary.

Epidemiology and Statistics
In the United States, 14,290 new cases of throat cancer are reported each year. Since the 1960’s, this number has been steadily declining. The most common age group that is diagnosed with throat cancer is from 65 to 74 years old, as close to 30% of all throat cancer diagnoses occur in this age group. The death rate for throat cancer is about 1.3 deaths per 100,000 (not necessarily cancer-afflicted) people. When just considering statistics for men, the number changes to 2.3 per 100,000 people, and for women it is 0.5 per 100,000 people. Clearly, men have a higher mortality rate from throat cancer. In terms of death rate by race, African-Americans top the list at 6.4/100,000, Caucasians come in second at 2.6/100,000, and Hispanics are next at 2.0/100,00. The overall throat cancer death count per year is at about 3,500.

Is there hope?
However, there is hope for those who are diagnosed with throat cancer. Many cases are recognized early on and can be treated with a high chance of a complete cure. In addition, the decision not to smoke or drink after being diagnosed is one the patient should definitely make. Quoted from the National Cancer Institute’s website, “Patients with laryngeal cancer who continue to smoke and drink are less likely to be cured and more likely to develop a second tumor”, Clearly, a choice to stop these harmful activities can greatly increase a patient’s chance of survival. The five stages of throat cancer, each having an increasing degree of severity, have the following five-year survival rates: 98%, 90%, 75%, 60%, and 30%. These contrast with the lung cancer survival rates of 49% for the mildest stage, and merely 2% for the most severe stage. If a patient’s throat cancer is diagnosed early on, as it should be with regular trips to the doctor, then there is a very high chance of survival.

The Mysterious Death of Michael Crichton
Michael Crichton took every measure possible to keep his battle with cancer private. In fact, until his death, the general public did not know about his illness. He died at age 66, while undergoing chemotherapy. There is much discrepancy between sources pertaining to the type of cancer that afflicted him. Some say it was throat cancer, some say it was lymphoma, and some say that both theories are merely rumors, and no one knows what he really suffered from apart from his immediate family. If he was a smoker, it would make complete sense that he contracted throat cancer. However, further investigation reveals that this obvious answer may not be the case. In an interview conducted on March 16, 2005 by university students as part of a program called “Students and Leaders”, aired on C-SPAN 2, Dr. Crichton offered the controversial viewpoint that secondhand smoke is not a serious carcinogen. By citing the statistics that after six studies, researchers were only 90% confident that secondhand smoke had harmful effects, instead of the 95% needed to make a concrete point, Dr. Crichton argued that secondhand smoke is not a carcinogen. However, later statements made in the video reveal that Dr. Crichton was starkly opposed to smoking in general. He stated that he supports the secondhand smoking ordinances enforced early on in states like California, and said “I don’t feel good in places like Germany or France where they smoke right next to you.” He then went on to say, simply: “I don’t want people to smoke. Smoking’s bad. Smoking causes cancer”. A person that smoked wouldn’t say that. Dr. Crichton, it seems, was not a smoker. Obviously, one can’t truly know what caused his cancer, and if he was a smoker or not, without having known him directly, but it seems that Dr. Crichton was a reasonable man who knew what he was talking about, and would know enough not to succumb to these influences. Perhaps his cancer was just a result of bad luck. After all, cancer doesn’t care whether you are a knowledgeable and extremely creative author, filmmaker, doctor, and scientist who conjured up some of the most thrilling and eye-opening science fiction stories of all time; it just takes whatever it can get.

Image Citations:
“Cancer - Throat or Larynx.” PubMed Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 May 2011. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/‌pubmedhealth/‌PMH0002037/>.
Crichton, Michael. Interview. Michael Crichton on the Unproven Dangers of Secondhand Smoke. C-SPAN 2. 16 Mar. 2005. YouTube. Web. Transcript. 4 May 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/‌watch?v=aGoZ-b1OaW4>.
“CRICHTON’S DEATH ENDS THRILLING RIDE.” New York Post. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 May 2011. <http://www.nypost.com/‌p/‌news/‌national/‌item_CK0AMvgRs0mKLxghrpV3rM>.
“Lung Cancer.” eMedicine Halth. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 May 2011. <http://www.emedicinehealth.com/‌lung_cancer/‌article_em.htm>.
“Michael Crichton Biography.” Bio.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 May 2011. <http://www.biography.com/‌articles/‌Michael-Crichton-381010>.
“Michael Crichton Dies.” The New York TImes. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 May 2011. <http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/‌2008/‌11/‌05/‌michael-crichton-dies/>.
“Throat Cancer.” UCSF Medical Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 May 2011. <http://www.ucsfhealth.org/‌conditions/‌throat_cancer/‌diagnosis.html>.
“Throat Cancer Statistics.” Disease,com. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 May 2011. <http://cancer.disease.com/‌Throat-Cancer/‌throat-cancer-statistics.html>.
“Throat Cancer Survival Rate.” Buzzle. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 May 2011. <http://www.buzzle.com/‌articles/‌throat-cancer-survival-rate.html>.
“Throat (Laryngeal and Pharyngeal) Cancer.” National Cancer Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 May 2011. <http://www.cancer.gov/‌cancertopics/‌types/‌throat>.