It was announced today that rapper Adam Yauch, aka MCA, of the Beastie Boys, has passed away.
What struck me as surprising was that he was diagnosed with cancer of the parotid gland. When the news originally came out, the media described this type of tumor as 'very treatable.' However, a closer inspection reveals that the aggressiveness of this type of cancer varies greatly from case to case.
In January 2011, Yauch announced that he was 'healthy, strong and hopeful,' but by early spring 2012, he was unable to attend the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction of his band.
The parotid gland is one of the major salivary glands of the mouth (#1 in the photo) and is found in your cheeks near your back molars on both sides.
As Dr. Christopher Chang describes, cancer of the salivary glands is rare, however the parotid is the one most commonly affected. The only symptom someone with this tumor may experience is the feeling of a 'lump' in their cheeks. It most likely doesn't cause pain or discomfort (however if it does, this suggests the mass may be a malignant cancer).
Benign examples of parotid gland tumors include pleomorphic adenoma or warthin's tumor. These should be removed to avoid any facial disfigurement caused by their growth (also they may turn cancerous as years go by). Malignant version of tumors include mucoepidermoid carcinoma, acinic cell carcinoma, and skin cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma.
Let your dentist or medical doctor know if you feel any lumps in your cheeks, so that you can be properly evaluated.
Rest in peace Adam!