Curt Schilling blames chewing tobacco for his oral cancer
In June, longtime MLB pitcher Curt Schilling announced that the cancer he had been battling since February was in remission. But until a radio telethon for the Jimmy Fund on Wednesday, he had kept mum about the specifics.
Schilling told NESN and WEEI that he has squamous-cell carcinoma in his mouth, and that he believes it came from chewing tobacco during his baseball career. Via Boston.com:
“This all came about from a dog bite,” Schilling said. “I got bitten by a dog and I had some damage to my finger and I went to see a doctor, and the day that I went to see the doctor, I was driving and I went to rub my neck and I felt a lump on the left side of my neck. And I knew immediately it wasn’t normal. So there happened to be an ENT [Ear, Nose, and Throat] right next door to the hand doctor, and I thought what the heck, let me just stop in and see and so I waited in the office and went in there and they did the biopsy, and two days later, they diagnosed me with squamous cell carcinoma….
“I do believe without a doubt, unquestionably that chewing is what gave me cancer and I’m not going to sit up here from the pedestal and preach about chewing. I will say this: I did for about 30 years. It was an addictive habit. I can think of so many times in my life when it was so relaxing to just sit back and have a dip and do whatever, and I lost my sense of smell, my taste buds for the most part. I had gum issues, they bled, all this other stuff. None of it was enough to ever make me quit. The pain that I was in going through this treatment, the second or third day it was the only thing in my life that had that I wish I could go back and never have dipped. Not once. It was so painful.”
Earlier this year, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn succumbed to salivary-gland cancer at age 54. Gwynn, too, attributed his illness to smokeless tobacco use. Two MLB alumni from his San Diego State program, Addison Reed and Stephen Strasburg, said they planned to quit using tobacco after hearing word of Gwynn’s death.
Schilling’s doctor, Robert Haddad of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, confirmed to Boston.com that there is a direct link between smokeless tobacco use and oral cancer.
“It is not a question mark,” Haddad said. “The National Cancer Institute clearly makes the case that any form of tobacco is harmful and should not be used.”
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