Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Michael Douglas and Throat Cancer FAQ

Michael Douglas Has Stage IV Throat Cancer; Experts Weigh In
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Sept. 1, 2010 -- Actor Michael Douglas last night stunned a television audience with the announcement that he has "late stage IV throat cancer."

What is this disease? How is it treated? Based on what he's revealed, what do we know about Douglas's treatment and prognosis?

To answer these and other questions, WebMD spoke with two experts:

  • Gady Har-El, MD, chairman of the department of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at New York's Lenox Hill Hospital.
  • Ted Teknos, MD, co-director of the head and neck disease committee and professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center-James Cancer Hospital, Columbus, Ohio.

What is throat cancer?

Surprisingly, doctors don't use the term "throat cancer." Several different kinds of cancer can involve different parts of the throat and mouth.

Michael Douglas says he has a walnut-sized tumor at the base of his tongue. If that's truly where his cancer started, he likely has oropharyngeal cancer.

Oropharyngeal cancer may involve the base of the tongue, the tonsils and surrounding tissues, the soft palate, or the front and back walls of the throat.

Doctors use the term "insidious" to describe base-of-tongue tumors. That's because there is no pain sensation at the base of the tongue, so the tumors can become quite advanced before symptoms appear.

What causes throat cancer?

Another reason to suspect that Douglas's throat cancer is oropharyngeal cancer is his statement that the cancer probably was caused by smoking and drinking.

"Smoking is a major cause of oropharyngeal cancer," Har-El tells WebMD. "Drinking alcohol, as far as the statistics can tells us, is not as bad by itself. But the combination of drinking and smoking is the worst combination."

Although it may account for Douglas's cancer, it does not account for the sudden rise in oropharyngeal cases that doctors are seeing.

"This is a disease that is increasing really at a dramatic rate, particularly in the male population," Teknos says. "Not that long ago, this only made up about 18% of head and neck cancers. Now it makes up a full third and is increasing at a very rapid rate."

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Today on WebMD

Colorectal cancer cells
New! I AM Not Cancer Facebook Group
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Ovarian cancer illustration
Real Cancer Perspectives
Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
what is your cancer risk
colorectal cancer treatment advances
breast cancer overview slideshow
prostate cancer overview
lung cancer overview slideshow
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
Actor Michael Douglas