In the Jaws of Cancer

Osteosarcoma tumor removed and jaw rebuilt in novel surgery

(RxWiki News) Imagine being 21 years old and having a 10-pound tumor on your face. The young man could barely talk and required a feeding tube. He had a rare kind of bone cancer – osteosarcoma – that strikes young people.

In a never-before-performed operation, surgeons successfully removed the tumor and rebuilt the jaw and lower third of the young man’s face so he was able to speak and eat again.

"Bone pain should never be ignored."

Osteosarcoma is a rare bone cancer that usually affects younger people. Roughly 500 Americans between the ages of 15 and 30 are diagnosed with the disease every year.

It usually forms in the leg bones and typically doesn’t spread. This case was different. The cancer spread from his thigh bone to his jaw.

"The bone tumor involved nearly all of his jaw bone, lower lip, chin, neck skin, tongue and both cheeks, approximately the lower third of the face and upper half of his neck," said senior study author Tamer A. Ghanem, MD, PhD, director of Head and Neck Oncology & Microvascular Surgery Division and head of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Henry Ford Hospital.

Prior to this 20-hour surgery, the African American man had had all sorts of surgeries and other treatments – all of which didn’t work.

"We had to think outside the box to not only safely remove the tumor, but to allow for optimum functional outcome," said Dr. Ghanem in a press release. He is also division head of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Henry Ford.

Only three months after the surgery, the young man regained his ability to eat and speak.

This case study was presented at the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery annual meeting held in September in Washington, D.C.

Before undergoing the peer review process and being published in a medical journal, all research is considered preliminary.

Review Date: 
October 3, 2012