Tom O’Neill knew something his wrong.
He had a sore throat, but it didn’t feel like any sore throat he ever had before.
Having seen a doctor and taken medication for a week in July 2019, he was referred by his GP to his
dentist and within minutes of sitting down in the dental chair at Dillon Dental, something worrying was
detected; something that required further exploration and fast.
Tom (73) was dispatched with a note to be seen urgently at UCC’s dental college the following morning.
He was assessed and told his dentist’s hunch was right and an inspection by a consultant confirmed that
Tom had suspected throat cancer.
A biopsy and MRI and CT scans were taken and the news was relayed to Tom that he had a tumour in his
mouth under his tongue.
“I was told 30% of my tongue would have to be removed. The tumour was about 25mm in diameter and
the biopsy showed it was malignant,’” Tom said.
He was told in August that there was hope because of the speed at which the dentist diagnosed
something wrong and urged him to see a specialist in Cork.
Within two months Tom was operated on for over eight hours in the South Infirmary Hospital in a very
complicated medical procedure due to the location of the tumour.
“I can’t remember what I felt like when I woke up. I looked in a very bad state. There were tubes
everywhere on either side of my mouth draining into two vacuum pumps removing all the lymph nodes
from my mouth to ensure it hadn’t spread.”
His consultant told him that there would be many more positive outcomes if people acted on their
“He said: ‘thankfully you and your dentist did and that has made my job easier’. Thankfully, the analysis
came back clear,” Tom said.
Tom remained in hospital for a few weeks and was tube fed until February 2020. He couldn’t talk during
this period because he had a tracheotomy as well.
“My voice came back. Prior to that I was using a whiteboard and marker. I want to let other people
know your dentist is best placed to help you. Some people are extremely reluctant to go and have oral
problems checked out but they should because dentists pick problems up faster than anyone else
“Some people don’t realise how serious things can get if you put them on the long finger; something
that may seem trivial. Normally I wouldn’t bother even going to a doctor about something like that but I
had this uneasy feeling. I want to thank Dillon Dental. I’ve never felt better, apart from a little problem
with certain words but I don’t care, I’m alive.”