Throat cancer is a widely prevalent disease, it has cost lives and livelihoods, it also costs your voice. Dr. Vishal Rao, an oncologist in Bengaluru has invented a device for the people who lose their voice due to throat cancer. This device that weighs around 25 gm can be bought at a price of Rs 50 as opposed to the currently available prostheses that cost anywhere between Rs. 15,000 and Rs. 30,000, and have to be replaced every six months.
Dr. Rao is an oncologist and head and neck surgeon at the Bangalore-based HealthCare Global (HCG) Cancer Center. He has developed this voice prosthesis device that can help patients whose voice box has been removed (to speak and eat properly). The device has been named as ‘Aum’.
Voice for the voiceless
Voice prosthesis is a device made of silicone. It is used to help patients speak when the entire voice box, or larynx, has been removed. In such cases, the windpipe and food pipe are separated from each other, either at the time of the surgery or later, creating an opening between the two. The device is then placed in this opening. The voice box basically vibrates with the help of air provided from the lungs. The mechanism behind the prosthesis is that instead of the vocal cord vibrating, the food pipe is made to vibrate with the back end of the prosthesis sitting at the food pipe.
Dr. Rao took the help of his friend Shashank Mahesh, an industrialist, to deal with the financial aspect of the project. Though it costs Rs 50, they called it the $1voice box to make it match international standards. Thanks to this box, many throat cancer patients who could not access this technology, now have a ray of hope through ‘Aum’.
Tobacco continues to kill
The Aum voice prosthesis device had bagged the state innovation award at a conference of oncologists last year. At any given point of time, there are over 1.5 lakh cases of tobacco-induced cancer in the state, and one-third of them are of head and neck cancer, which poses the risk of voice box removal.