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What Michael Douglas Faces with Throat Cancer

A spokesperson for Michael Douglas made a stunning announcement -- that the 65-year-old actor has a tumor in his throat.

"Early Show" co-anchor Chris Wragge reported Douglas will face a difficult treatment regimen: eight weeks of radiation given five days a week, and chemotherapy, which is usually given every one-to-three weeks.

In a brief statement, Douglas said, "I am very optimistic."

But CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton said on "The Early Show," throat cancer patients face additional challenges with treatment.

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With throat cancer, Ashton said, "Radiation to the mouth ... can be difficult. Usually, (it's) very effective, about 50 to 80 percent of these types of cancers can be cured. However, radiation does damage cells, it can make swallowing very difficult, it can give you sores in your mouth."

Ashton said Douglas, like other throat cancer patients, has the possibility of losing his ability to speak.

She added, "The big things that we take into account with the prognosis of a patient: The stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis, the location and size of the tumor, and probably most importantly, the age of the patient and their general state of health and their attitude."

And while Douglas will receive common treatments for cancer, throat cancer itself, Ashton said, is rather uncommon.

"It tends to affect men about five times as often as it affects women and we're talking here about cancer that's located in the larynx or voice box or upper palette or the upper esophagus. And no one likes to hear a diagnosis of cancer. This isn't one of the top cancers, but it's definitely seen."

Ashton explained environmental risk factors, such as smoking, heavy alcohol use, exposure to certain environmental chemicals, can affect your chances of throat cancer.

"Everyone the human papillomavirus has been linked to oral cancers," she said. "So these are things that your lifestyle really can have a huge impact on your risk."

When it comes to symptoms, Ashton said throat cancer is most often noticed when someone has trouble or difficulty swallowing.

"That's oftentimes what patients complain about first," Ashton said. "You can have a lump in the neck that you can actually feel. Even ear pain. And that's because sometimes this tumor can refer pain to the ear or a persistent cough or persistent bad breath."