BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, who underwent surgery for cancer in his upper jaw bone last summer, has had a recurrence of oral cancer.
ECMC released a statement Friday saying the recurrence was found while the Hall of Fame quarterback was in the hospital for a follow-up appointment.
As with so many other forms of cancer, the key to successfully treating head and neck cancers such as squamous cell is often finding it early. Kelly’s original bout of cancer was discovered after Kelly told his dentist that his jaw hurt.
Dr. Kandala Chary, who specializes in head and neck cancers at CCS Oncology, said, “These cancers are often very eminently treatable, in the early stages.”
Kelly had surgery to remove the squamous cell from his mouth and jaw last summer.
“A significant number, in the 70 to 80 percent [range], are curable for Stage 1 and Stage 2. It is the more advanced cancers that often end up coming back,” Dr. Chary said.
ECMC’s Dr. Thom Loree said Friday the hospital’s team of head and neck specialists is working on a course of treatment for Kelly. Dr. Chary says that can be a complex process.
“Because the compartment of the neck and the head, everything around, is made of numerous structures – from soft tissue, muscle, bone, nerves, blood vessels,” he said.
Surgery, Dr. Chary says, is usually the treatment of choice. But in a case such as Jim Kelly’s, where cancer reoccurs after surgery, he says, “it breaches the barrier of our traditional way of thinking, of Stage 1 to Stage 4.
“So it depends upon what kind of prior treatments the patient had – a limited amount of surgery, an extensive amount of surgery, radiation therapy. All of these factors certainly alter and limit the options of treatment that we can possibly render to the patient.”