BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Doctors can’t discuss Jim Kelly’s specific situation because the details are all private, but there are a few things that can be interpreted about the Hall of Fame quarterback’s condition.
For instance, we know that the cancer has spread to the maxillary sinus and adjacent areas. The maxilla is the upper jawbone, and also forms part of the base of the skull, and the sinus is a cavity within the bone.
Cancer that arises in the oral cavity and grows upward would invade the maxilla and extend into the sinus as a gray mass. That enlargement could have happened over several months without causing any specific symptoms.
If the tumor invades or presses on nerves, it can cause severe pain. Jim Kelly had a lot of pain and we’re told that was due to involvement of the infraorbital nerve. The infraorbital nerve is directly adjacent to the maxilla, and involvement of that nerve anywhere along its course would explain pain in the face and jaw.
If the tumor has spread within the bone, there may be tiny clusters of cells that can’t be seen by a surgeon and can’t be successfully removed without a very extensive operation. But chemotherapy can reach those cells, and radiation can cover the whole region they occupy.
About 40,000 Americans develop oral cancer every year and it can be very dangerous, but like all cancers, the earlier you treat it, the better the outcome is likely to be. April happens to be Oral Cancer Awareness month, and there are some symptoms everyone should know.
Ulcers or sores in the mouth that don’t heal, persistent bleeding, pain or numbness in the mouth, lumps on the tongue or gums are all signs. If you have any of those, contact your doctor or dentist.
Oral cancer is different from most other cancers because you can see it, so you should be able to catch it early.