Rob Paulsen's Voice Made His Career — Would Throat Cancer End It?

For more than 30 years, Rob Paulsen's voice was his breadwinner—but throat cancer sought to change that.

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Don’t know Rob Paulsen? Chances are, you’ve heard his voice.

Since 1983, Paulsen has voiced dozens of cartoon characters, including: Yakko in Animaniacs; Pinky in Pinky and the Brain; Raphael in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; and Carl in Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.

While shaving one morning in February of 2016, Paulsen felt a painless lump on his neck that concerned him. He went to his doctor and was soon diagnosed with stage 3 throat cancer.

Throat Cancer vs. Career

The throat cancer, located at the rear of his tongue, could potentially end Rob's decades-long career.

"[The doctors said] they could cure me, but they couldn't guarantee that my voice would survive,” Paulsen says. “They said I'd be able to speak, but they couldn't guarantee I'd still be able to make a living as a voice actor.”

Paulsen’s cancer was caused by HPV, or human papillomavirus. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection and is known to cause several different types of cancer. (Learn more about the HPV vaccine here.)

About 70 percent of cancers in the oropharynx—which includes the tonsils, soft palate, and base of the tongue—are linked to HPV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A Voice of Healing

Paulsen underwent an aggressive treatment regimen that included seven weeks of daily radiation and eight chemotherapy sessions. The treatment took a toll on his body, causing him to lose 50 pounds.

Since recovering and returning back to work, Paulsen now lends his voice to a different cause—raising cancer awareness. He is the 2020 spokesperson for the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance.

“There are millions of people who have beaten cancer, but because of what I do for a living, it has a little more weight,” Paulsen says of his role. “I can not only continue to make a living, but [also] make a difference, and I can’t wait to use that on the biggest scale that I can.”