Dr. Pauline Meekins, an emergency room physician with The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), was diagnosed with damaged salivary glands just six months after receiving radioactive iodine for her thyroid cancer in 2011. Having overcome cancer, Dr. Meekins believed the worst was over. However, her glands became so swollen that she experienced pain that prevented her from talking or eating at times.
Although she understood her glands might swell and be sore after her therapy with radioactive iodine, even as a clinician herself, she wasn’t aware that her glands could be affected to the extent that they required additional surgeries.
“I remember sitting outside, having a big old French ice cream and having this horrible twisting, colicky pain come on so strong,” said Dr. Meekins. “When you cannot eat because your face hurts so bad every single time, it’s a quality of life issue.”
After she met with Dr. Marion Boyd Gillespie, a colleague at MUSC who specialized in head and neck surgery and sialendoscopy, she was diagnosed with obstructive salivary gland disease. This disorder inhibits the ability of the salivary glands to properly pass saliva through the salivary ducts and can cause visible and painful swelling of the glands, dry mouth, and difficulty in swallowing.
“The alternative treatment options I wouldn’t be willing to accept. So the fact that [sialendoscopy] existed was really life-changing.”
Dr. Pauline E. Meekins is an independent physician with no financial ties to Cook Medical.
Dr. Marion Boyd Gillespie is a paid consultant of Cook Medical.