BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The uncertainty is over for Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly. His biopsies have come back negative.
The former Buffalo Bill underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment for cancer in his jaw and was declared cancer-free, but further biopsies were conducted for an area doctors were uncertain about.
“The big question mark is an area around my nerve. They couldn’t tell, so I unfortunately have to go back next week and they’re going to take biopsies,” Kelly said in an earlier interview.
Dr. Saurin Popat is a member of the department of head and neck surgery at ECMC, and though he was not involved in Kelly’s care, he explained why doctors would be interested in further testing.
“There is no identifiable cancer on clinical examination and they’re relying upon testing such as an MRI scan. Something such as a tissue biopsy may be warranted, additional imaging with more precise MRI or CT scans or PET scans may also be needed, or a combination of all of those,” he said.
Throughout his battle with cancer, Kelly says one thing that has helped him get by: prayer.
Kelly said, “To be honest with you guys, the prayers, support I’ve gotten from everybody, the well wishes and of course having family support, my wife, my daughters, my brothers, words cannot really tell you what it means to me.”
“You need people there to pray for you, you need people to always say those little words, or give you that hug that you need. Those are the things for me I needed more than anything, and it’s been mind boggling the support I’ve gotten, and I thank God everyday.”
Head and neck cancers are the fifth most common cancers worldwide, and there are around 800 cases a year in Western New York.
The good news is, most of those people are cured. Head and neck cancers are much less likely to spread widely in the body than lung or breast or colon cancer, so the cure rate is higher.
Doctors usually wait five years with no recurrence to say someone is cured of cancer, but in oral cancers, there is often a quicker preview.
Dr. Popat explained, “If people have no evidence of disease, of the tumor coming back within two years, approximately 75 to 85 percent of these people can expect that they’ll reach that five-year mark very readily.”
Now that the biopsies have come back as negative, Kelly will likely need regular doctors visits to make sure the cancer has not returned, and if it has that it is treated quickly.
Kelly says it’s a big step in the right direction. He’s lost 51 pounds, but he’s optimistic he will continue to get stronger.
“This is some greatest news I’ve ever gotten,” said Kelly Thursday in a prepared statement. “It’s been a long road, and I’m still not back to one hundred percent, but I have a lot to be thankful for.”