|Image by Patrick Lynch from Wikipedia|
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
• Squamous Cell Carcinoma
• Mucoepidermoid Carcinoma
• Carcinoma ex-pleomorphic adenoma
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.
Adam Yauch Dead: Beastie Boys' MCA Dies After Battling Cancer. Huffington Post 5/4/12.