It’s surprising to hear this, but scientists have recently discovered a new organ in the human body. The fact that we are still discovering new organs is difficult to imagine, but after centuries of medical research, doctors and scientists are still uncovering parts of the human body that have gone unnoticed. A group of scientists from the Netherlands believe that they have discovered a pair of glands that are hidden in our skulls, where the nasal cavity and throat meet. 

I’ve always assumed that we know our bodies, that our own selves would not be mysterious.

The discovery may have significant clinical implications, especially for patients with head and neck cancer or tumors in the throat or tongue. As groundbreaking as this is, the discovery was actually accidental. Dr Matthijs Valstar, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon at the Netherlands Cancer Institute was working with his team when they discovered an unknown structure in the head. After scanning 100 patients, the researchers confirmed the presence of tubarial glands. They’re known as “tubarial” glands because of their location as they are part of the salivary gland system.

 Cancer diagnoses are always scary to hear so it’s heartening to see that there are positive steps in terms of treatment. Like other families, I’ve had family members struggle with cancer. It is heartbreaking to watch, especially when simple tasks become challenging. Radiotherapy can damage salivary glands, making it difficult to swallow, speak, or eat. Doctors try and spare patients’ known glands during radiation treatments in order to improve the patient’s quality of life and slow the decay of the motor skills we take for granted. By sparing these glands, patients can have a better quality of life after treatment and experience fewer side effects. Having more information on these glands can change treatment plans, keeping patient health and satisfaction in mind. 

The fact that we are still discovering new organs is difficult to imagine.

The team conducted a study to try and understand how these glands can help the patient’s quality of life. By analyzing the data of over 700 patients who had undergone radiation treatment, it was discovered that a radiotherapy dose to this area was associated with complications. This means that it should be possible to avoid delivering radiation to this new-found gland. It’ll make treatment easier for patients in terms of a higher quality of life and reduced side effects. 

 A cure is still in the distant future. However, treatment plans are becoming easier to deal with — the quality of life is on the up and up, and it helps patient morale to know that they won’t lose the ability to speak or swallow. It’s good to know that medicine continues to make strides in order to help make things more bearable. Radiation therapy, too, is now safer than ever, with effective treatments in place.

Strides in technology and science have come to feel commonplace —  we know more about the universe and our world than we ever did before. But I’ve always assumed that we know our bodies, that our own selves would not be mysterious. I am glad to be proven wrong, to know that there are still some things left to find out.

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  • Natalia Ahmed

    Natalia Nazeem Ahmed is a budding writer and editor with a BA from Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts in Pune, India, with a major in English Literature and a double minor in Philosophy and Film Studies. An avid reader, her goal is to build a career out of her fiction and non-fiction writing. In her spare time, she loves to knit for her loved ones.