Do you remember the Monkees? They were a rock group in the 1960’s. Their TV show first appeared on NBC in 1966. One of their biggest hits includes chart-topper I'm A Believer. The group toured following the success of their TV show.
Former Monkee, Peter Tork, 67, has a rare form of head and neck cancer. He underwent surgery last week in New York. He is reported to be doing well and will have radiation treatment when healed from the surgery.
According to Tork’s website, he has adenoid cystic carcinoma of the tongue. The cancer was found early and has not spread.
Anatomically, the tongue is actually divided into two separate areas. The oral tongue (the part you can "stick out" at somebody) is the front of the tongue and extends backward to a V-shaped group of lumps (specialized taste buds) on the back of the tongue. The base of tongue is behind these. (photo credit)
The oral tongue and the base of the tongue comprise the whole tongue but develop from different embryonic tissue. The tongue is the second most common site of cancers of the head and neck. The first is the skin.
The most common type of cancer of the tongue is called Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Adenoid cystic carcinoma is a rare cancer of the tongue. It is a common malignant cancer of the salivary glands. It accounts for nearly 2% to 4% of head and neck area tumors. In minor salivary glands, adenoid cystic carcinoma usually affects the palate.
The most common symptoms of tongue cancer are a painful area or a non healing ulcer on the tongue. Other symptoms include bleeding, ear pain, difficulty with swallowing and/or speech, pain on swallowing, difficulty opening the mouth, or a presence of a mass in the neck.
Most tongue cancers occur in older patients who have extensive histories of tobacco and/or alcohol use, but can arise in a person under forty years of age and/or have no significant history of tobacco or alcohol use.
When found early, tongue cancer lesions are usually treated by surgery only. For all but the smallest lesions, a lymph node dissection will also be done the side of the neck on which the tumor has arisen. The neck dissection gives additional staging information about the tumor and its aggressiveness. More advanced lesions require radiation therapy and sometimes chemotherapy in addition to the surgery.
Surgical removal of small lesions often cause little functional impairment. Removal of larger portions of the tongue can leave the patient with difficulty with speech and/or swallowing. Aggressive rehabilitation by a speech pathologist can result in excellent results for both speech and swallowing.
The prognosis for patients with tongue cancer is generally good. Early diagnosis and treatment are important.
Adenoid cystic carcinoma of the tongue: case report and literature review; Med Oral Patol Oral Cir Bucal. 2008 Aug 1;13(8):E475-8; Soares EC, Carreiro Filho FP, Costa FW, Vieira AC, Alves AP.