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Patient Stories

Alberto: Head and Neck Cancer Survivor

Alberto: Head and Neck Cancer Survivor

Dedicated to tomorrow's smile

Alberto Centeno had already been through a bout of stomach cancer in 2008. But in 2013, new symptoms brought him to his local ear, nose, and throat doctor, who scheduled an appointment for him with Dr. Benjamin Judson, Assistant Professor of Surgery (Otolaryngology) and head and neck surgeon at Yale Cancer Center. Alberto’s diagnosis: throat cancer. Surgery was needed, followed by daily treatment with radiation therapy.

Dr. Judson, who specializes in the surgical treatment of benign and malignant tumors of the head and neck, performed the operation. Passionate about achieving the best possible results for his patients, Dr. Judson works closely with a team of specialists at Smilow Cancer Hospital. “One of the things we offer patients at Smilow is a whole team dedicated to a specific problem,” said Dr. Judson. “I work very closely with the team members, including oncologists, radiation therapists, and pathologists. We focus on each patient and go over all their records as a group. I think that really makes a difference.”

“Thank God I found the doctors at Yale ... both the surgeon and the radiation therapist were excellent,” noted Alberto.

Alberto’s recovery, however, has not been an easy one. Complications from his surgery brought him back for several more hospital visits and kept him from returning to his job. “At the beginning, I was unable to speak,” said Alberto. But with the help of the expertise of the team at Smilow, including speech pathologists at Yale’s Speech & Swallow Center, he is again able to talk.

Yale’s Speech & Swallow Center offers cutting-edge, team-based care in treating voice, airway and swallowing disorders. The Center’s highest priority is improving the lives of patients with breathing, swallowing, and communications problems.

Alberto also suffered from weight loss, pain, and depression. He credits the support of people around him for his recovery and his ability to return to work. “My wife, my children, my mother, my doctors, and my therapists have all helped me recover,” said Alberto. “I was very determined that I was going to get better and I have been able to go back to my job. I am sure that my determination, combined with the support I received, especially from my wife, made all the difference.”

Despite his several setbacks, Alberto’s spirits remain high. “I was sure I was going to die from my cancer. But I’m feeling a lot better, I’ve gained over ten pounds and I’m doing quite well. I can smile again.”