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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Beastie Boys Adam Yauch Dies of Parotid Cancer

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On May 4, 2012, Adam Yauch, one of the founding members of the Beastie Boys, died of a "rare parotid gland cancer" that he had been battling since its diagnosis in 2009. For those who do not know what a parotid gland is... it is one of the major glands that produce saliva or spit and is located immediately in front of the ear (looks like fish eggs in the picture taken from Wikipedia). It is about the size of the palm of the hand.

It is unclear exactly what type of parotid gland cancer Adam Yauch had, but here's a list of what it could have been:

• Acinic Cell Carcinoma
• Adenocarcinoma
• Squamous Cell Carcinoma
• Mucoepidermoid Carcinoma

Thankfully, the vast majority of parotid tumors are benign growths such a pleomorphic adenoma or Warthin's tumor.

Typically, with any type of parotid mass, the sequence of events to diagnose and treat such masses occur in a standard fashion:

1) Mass appreciated by patient or primary care doctor
2) Patient sees ENT who confirms mass localized to parotid gland
3) CT scan of the neck with contrast ordered to further evaluate the mass
4) Fine needle biopsy obtained of the mass for pathologic diagnosis
5) Surgical excision performed... an operation called "parotidectomy"
6) If needle biopsy indicated cancer, neck dissection is also performed to remove all lymph nodes that may contain cancer followed by radiation therapy to the whole area.

Parotidectomy surgery is a "difficult" surgery mainly in the sense that one of the main risks of surgery is permanent facial paralysis. Why? It is because the nerve that allows facial movement goes right through this gland (in yellow in the picture above).

As such, the vast amount of time dedicated to this surgery which may last anywhere from one to several hours is identifying and isolating all involved branches of the facial nerve. The actual parotid gland mass removal takes less than 15 minutes. 

Read more about this surgery here.


1 comment:

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