Aerosmith Bassist Says Cancer Reports Are Old News

Several music sites reported earlier this week that Aerosmith’s Tom Hamilton had recently undergone surgery for tongue cancer. The bassist has since clarified that the procedure actually took place in 2009.

Some sites wished Hamilton a speedy recovery and at least one publication reported that the musician had the surgery just last week. A number of stories attributed San Antonio, Texas TV station KSAT. Pollstar contacted KSAT-TV and learned that the information originated with a report from Ivanhoe Broadcast News, which covers breakthroughs in science and medicine.

Late Tuesday Hamilton took to his Twitter account to clear up any confusion.

“I did not undergo any surgery … this year. All this news is about 2009. Thanks for the wishes though!”

Photo: Debbie VanStory /
Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, Irvine, Calif.

In 2006 the 59-year-old musician went through a course of chemotherapy and radiation for throat cancer. The seven-week treatment forced Hamilton to miss a number of Aerosmith tour dates.

Three years later Hamilton once again missed some tour dates when the cancer returned. According to Ivanhoe Broadcast News, Hamilton decided to go through with laser surgery after the cancer spread from the upper part of his voice box into the tongue base.  At that time Aerosmith released a statement simply saying the bassist would miss “some dates” as he recovers from “non-invasive surgery.”

Steven Zeitels, MD, FACS, Director, Mass General Hospital Voice Center & Eugene B. Casey Professor at Harvard Medical School, performed the surgery, which utilizes a green-light KTP laser.

Dr. Zeitels explained that although it is “fairly routine” to use the laser to treat patients with voice box cancer, it is not standard to use the procedure for tongue-base cancer after someone has already had chemotherapy and radiation.

“Given his perfect jaw anatomy in addition to his neck anatomy, I thought that we could use some of our novel instruments and have the exposure to do it,” Dr. Zeitels said, according to Ivanhoe News Broadcast. “In a different kind of person’s head or neck configuration, I wouldn’t have had the exposure that was evident with Tom. He was the right person intellectually. He was the right patient spiritually. He was the right patient anatomically, and furthermore it was the right tumor.”

One benefit to the laser surgery is that it can be done repeatedly to treat new benign or malignant lesions. A risk was that it could leave Hamilton’s voice and breathing passages permanently damaged.

Dr. Zeitels said that if Hamilton didn’t go with the laser surgery, the other option would have been a more invasive procedure that involved cutting “open his neck and throat placing a breathing tube in his windpipe.”

“I was just terrified,” Hamilton said, according to Ivanhoe Broadcast News. “I really thought, ‘Oh, I am looking at not being able to talk.’”

Fortunately the laser surgery was a success.

“The second I had a tiny bit of consciousness, the first thing I did was make a sound, and it felt normal, and it sounded normal,” Hamilton said.

Click here and here to read the reports from Ivanhoe Broadcast News.