Jon Hamm to Undergo Vocal Surgery

Mad Men’s  debonaire Don Draper is frequently seen with a cigarette in his mouth.

But now actor Jon Hamm may be paying the price for Draper’s bad habit. The 42-year0-old Hamm is set to undergo the removal of a polyp on his vocal cord. The surgery is scheduled for next week in Boston.

According to reports, Hamm had noticed hoarseness of his voice for some time, but put off having it evaluated until he coughed up blood. Hamm’s rep, Erica Gray, confirmed to People magazine that Hamm would undergo the “routine outpatient procedure. He’s having a single polyp removed from his throat.”

Mad Man is expected to begin its final season in Spring 2014, allowing plenty of time for Hamm’s recovery.

Although the reports do not state who would do the surgery, it would not be surprising if Dr. Steven Zeitels, Director of the Center for Laryngeal Surgery and Voice Rehabilitation at Massachusetts General Hospital performs the procedure. Dr. Zeitels has been entitled the  “Voicebox Hero” as some of the most famous voices in the world— including Steven Tyler, Julie Andrew and Adele— have entrusted their pipes to him.

What is a vocal cord polyp?

vocal cord polypA vocal cord polyp is an overgrowth of tissue on the vocal cord. They are usually benign.

Polyps can take a number of forms. They appear as a swelling or bump (like a nodule), a stalk-like growth, or a blister-like lesion.

Polyps are sometimes related to voice misuse or overuse, but can also occur in people who don’t use their voice improperly.

A change in voice quality and persistent hoarseness are often the first warning signs of a vocal cord lesion. Other symptoms can include:

  •     Vocal fatigue
  •     Unreliable voice
  •     Low, gravelly voice
  •     Voice breaks in first passages of sentences
  •     Airy or breathy voice
  •     Inability to sing in high, soft voice
  •     Increased effort to speak or sing
  •     Hoarse and rough voice quality
  •     Frequent throat clearing
  •     Extra force needed for voice

Polyps may be caused by long-term vocal abuse but may also occur after a single, traumatic event to the vocal cords, such as yelling at a concert. Long-term cigarette smoking, hypothyroidism, and GERD may also cause polyp formation. Vocal abuse takes many forms and includes:

  •     Allergies
  •     Smoking
  •     Singing
  •    Coaching
  •     Cheerleading
  •     Talking loudly
  •     Drinking caffeine and alcohol (dries out the throat and vocal cords)

The most common treatment options for benign vocal cord lesions include: voice rest, voice therapy, singing voice therapy, and phonomicrosurgery, a type of surgery involving the use of microsurgical techniques and instruments to treat abnormalities on the vocal cord.

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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