Resource Blog/Media/MCI Kalman Swaun HERO


Head and Neck Cancer Survivor Glad to be Back at the Helm Now

Baptist Health Miami Cancer Institute

Arthur Swaun loves fighting tuna, sailfish and mahi-mahi off the coast of the Florida Keys. But in March of 2023, he got the news that he would be involved in a very different and unwelcome battle. He was diagnosed with HPV-related head and neck cancer.


“I woke up one morning, went to shave and there was a golf ball-sized bump sticking out the side of my neck,” the Cutler Bay resident said. “It didn’t start off small and grow. It just was literally there one morning.”



(Watch now: When Arthur Swaun stepped in front of the mirror one morning, he saw a golf ball-sized bump on his neck. See how doctors at Miami Cancer Institute cured what turned out to be HPV-related head and neck cancer.)


Head and neck cancers can appear in the tonsils, tongue and throughout the mouth, including the gums, roof of the mouth and cheek. They also occur in the salivary glands, sinuses, the nose, the larynx (or voice box) and the lower throat. Caught early, many head and neck cancers are curable.


“Mr. Swaun presented in a way that’s very common for HPV-related throat cancer, and that is with a mass in his neck,” said Noah Kalman, M.D., MBA, a radiation oncologist at Baptist Health Miami Cancer Institute who treated Mr. Swaun.


Noah Kalman, M.D., MBA, a radiation oncologist at Baptist Health Miami Cancer Institute


Head and neck cancers are diagnosed in about 67,000 people in the U.S. each year, according to the National Cancer Institute. An uptick in cases, particularly among younger adults, is attributed to the rise of human papillomavirus (HPV). While the body fights off HPV infections, the effect of the virus on certain cells can lead to HPV-related cancers many years later, with some types of HPV more likely than others to lead to cancer.


Mr. Swaun, 57, was healthy before his cancer diagnosis. “I grew up playing every sport that had a ball, and I’ve always been very active,” he said. When the lump appeared, he was worried, but not alarmed. “There was no warning, it didn’t hurt whatsoever. If I didn’t see it, I never would have known something was wrong.”


Fortunately, Mr. Swaun didn’t put off seeing his doctor, and he got to Miami Cancer Institute quickly. There, in addition to Dr. Kalman, his care team included Geoffrey Young, M.D., chief of head and neck surgery, and vice chair of the Department of Surgery at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine at Florida International University.


“The entire team made a frightening and physically taxing process into a manageable, understandable and calming journey to recovery,” Mr. Swaun recalled.


Many head and neck cancer patients undergo surgery as part of their treatment, but Mr. Swaun did not. “Testing determined Art had loco-regional disease and we did not see any disease outside of his head and neck,” Dr. Kalman said. A combination of radiation and chemotherapy was recommended.


Mr. Swaun began proton therapy, which sends high-powered beams of protons precisely to a tumor, sparing nearby healthy tissues and reducing side effects from radiation. Treatment typically lasts seven weeks, with daily doses of radiation given Monday through Friday. Because Miami Cancer Institute is a research leader, Mr. Swaun was able to participate in a clinical trial and received only three weeks of radiation treatment instead of seven.



“We use a special PET scan that looks at the tumor’s blood supply to determine how well the treatment is going and we could see that he was having a good response to treatment, so we stopped radiation after three weeks,” Dr. Kalman explained. Instead of having 33-35 radiation treatments, Mr. Swaun had 15. “That helps us limit the toxicity during and after treatment.”


Following chemotherapy, Mr. Swaun did experience some nausea and lost weight, but meeting with a nutritionist at Miami Cancer Institute helped. He attributes his good health today to his wife, Silvia, who was always at his side “running the show” during treatment, and his team at Miami Cancer Institute.


“I’m never sick so I haven’t had hospitalizations. I think of hospitals as very sterile, not very welcoming. This place is the opposite. It’s like I’m going to a hotel or a spa,” Mr. Swaun said. “The people were just incredible, from the security guard to the doctors. They are friends for life. They saved my life.”



While Mr. Swaun continued working throughout his treatment and remained active, he and his wife are now enjoying more time on their boat again. “Now I am cancer-free. I have gained my weight back. I feel just like I did.”


“At a year out, we feel great at how he is doing,” Dr. Kalman confirmed. “There’s no evidence of any tumor and he has fully recovered from the effects of the treatment.”


The HPV vaccine, not available when Mr. Swaun was a child, helps prevent many of the cancers caused by the virus, which is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vaccine is recommended for children and young adults ages 9 through 26 and is offered to adults ages 27 through 45. Speak to your doctor about your need for vaccination.

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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