More women are being diagnosed with throat cancer, a potentially deadly cancer that nearly silenced the voice of a well-known gospel singer-song writer.
Bobbie Jo Snow was diagnosed in November 2008 after years of suffering from throat problems.
"The only symptoms I had for a while was I had a knot to come up on the side of my throat then it would go down and then come back up," she said. "Several years later I started spitting up blood. That is when I knew I was in trouble."
She was referred to Tennessee Oncology, an association of more than 60 oncologists and hematologists, with 27 locations around Middle Tennessee.
When doctors found her tumors, the cancer had advanced to Stage III.
She had squamous cell carcinoma at the base of her tongue. Snow's oncologists said it's a typical form of throat cancer.
What followed was eight weeks of chemotherapy and radiation five days a week.
Doctors were confident they could save Snow's life, but her voice could be lost forever.
"I thought we would cure her cancer, but I told her not to count on singing anymore," Radiological Oncologist Dr. Brad Cohen said. "Her voice would pretty much sound like mine, not hers."
Snow said the news was difficult to hear, especially since she has been singing for more than 30 years.
"That's like telling an athlete you are not going to be able to play ball," she said. "It devastated me."
Dr. Cohen said in years past, men who drank and smoked heavily were diagnosed with throat cancer, but now more women are being diagnosed with the disease.
"There are much higher incidents of cancers arising in the back of the tongue and throat area due to HPV [Human Papillomavirus]," Dr. Cohen said. "It is the same virus that causes cervical cancer."
He said a persistent hoarseness, a lingering pain or a lump in the neck could be a sign of cancer.
Due to advancements in treatment the cure rate has improved for throat cancer.
"A situation similar to this10 to 15 years ago, the cure rate would have been 30 to50%," Dr. Cohen said. "With this more current version, the cure rate has bumped up to 70 to 90 %."
Snow has been cancer free for three years.
She said she will undergo check ups with her oncologist every six months for the next two years. Then she will continue to get regular check ups from an ear, nose and throat doctor.
Doctors said her prognosis is good for staying in remission.
"It made me mad when they first told me I had cancer I was angry inside," Snow said. "I really had to buckle down in my faith and say ‘By your stripes I am healed'."
It took a year, but Snow's singing voice is back.
She recently recorded a new song she wrote called, "His Name is Jesus."