Blythe Danner on the ‘sneaky disease’ that killed her husband

Mouth cancer: What are the causes and symptoms?

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Wed to Bruce Paltrow for 33 years, Blythe lost her beloved husband to the deadly condition in 2002. “You never get over that kind of loss,” Blythe shared. “Bruce was the heart of our family. And life is so much paler without him around. But grief is the price we pay for love.”

Then, in 2018, Blythe “started feeling very woozy and […] was forgetting everything”.

“I felt a lump in my neck, right next to where Bruce had found his [in 1999],” Blythe recalled to People.

Diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare form of oral cancer, the grandmother “looked up at heaven” and asked her late husband: “Are you lonely up there?”

“It’s a sneaky disease,” Blythe commented. “But I’m fine and dandy now. And I’m lucky to be alive.”

READ MORE: Acholic stools are ‘the most common’ sign of pancreatic cancer in ‘initial’ stages

Blythe underwent three surgeries to remove the cancerous lesion, in addition to radiation and chemotherapy.

Now the 79-year-old does advocacy work on behalf of the Oral Cancer Foundation.

The Foundation explained that adenoid cystic carcinoma, which Blythe experienced, arises in the salivary glands of the head and neck.

In general, oral cancer can lead to various symptoms, as pointed out by the NHS.

Oral cancer symptoms

  • Mouth ulcers that are painful and do not heal within several weeks
  • Unexplained, persistent lumps in the mouth or the neck that do not go away
  • Unexplained loose teeth or sockets that do not heal after extractions
  • Unexplained, persistent numbness or an odd feeling on the lip or tongue
  • Sometimes, white or red patches on the lining of the mouth or tongue
  • Changes in speech, such as a lisp.

“See a GP or dentist if these symptoms do not get better within three weeks, particularly if you drink or smoke,” the NHS adds.

Drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco are two lifestyle choices that increase the risk of developing oral cancer.

Each year, around 8,300 people are diagnosed with oral cancer in the UK.

READ MORE: Acholic stools are ‘the most common’ sign of pancreatic cancer in ‘initial’ stages

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A post shared by Gwyneth Paltrow (@gwynethpaltrow)

“The outlook for mouth cancer can vary depending on which part of your mouth is affected,” the NHS says.

Moreover, a person’s survival chances depend on whether the cancer has spread from the mouth into surrounding tissue.

“If mouth cancer is diagnosed early, a complete cure is often possible in up to nine in 10 cases using surgery alone,” the NHS assures.

“Advances in surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy have resulted in much improved cure rates.”

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A post shared by Gwyneth Paltrow (@gwynethpaltrow)

Blythe added: “Everyone is touched by cancer in some way… I kept it from my kids for a long time. I wanted to forge ahead as a mother, and I didn’t want them to worry.”

While she was concerned about her children’s emotional well-being, Blythe didn’t fear for her life.

“I wasn’t quaking in my boots,” Blythe said. “I don’t have any fear of death at all.”

She stated: “It’s a bit of a crapshoot — this disease and this life. But I’ve had a career, great kids and a loving husband. I’m very grateful.”

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