One of my favorite professors lost his life to a very rare form of cancer on Friday. Called Adenoid cystic carcinoma, it is a cancer that is found mostly in the head and neck and tends to originate in the salivary glands. Although I have yet to write a general blog about cancer, I felt that I could use this blog to both educate the public and honor Dr. Scott Odom at the same time.
Pathology: Because it is such a rare form of cancer, no one knows what factors contribute to the development of this disease. It originates in the salivary glands most of the time, but can also originate in other areas of the head and neck, skin, breasts, vulva, or prostate. The cancer creates abnormal “nests” which are filled with a mucous-type material or abnormally filled fibrous membranes, which then travel to certain glands and ducts in the body and infiltrate them.
- Difficulties in swallowing
- Bump on the ear or in the jaw
- Facial paralysis
- Lump under the tongue or on the mouth palate
Treatment: Because of the nature of this form of cancer, the most effective treatment is invasive surgery which removes not only the cancerous tissue but some of the tissue around the “nests”. Radiation and chemotherapy may also be used in conjunction with surgery.
Prognosis: This form of cancer has long periods of very slow growth while simultaneously invading the body in a very aggressive manner. So, the short term outlook is very positive, while the long term prognosis is more grim. Eventually, this cancer may spread to the brains and the lungs and rapidly take over the tissue, leading to death.
5 year survival rate: 89%
15 year survival rate: 40%
For More Information:
Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma Alliance
Tribute to Dr. Odom: This man was the type of teacher that almost everyone in the school both knows and loves. But, I cannot convey to anyone how great his spirit was. Check here to see for yourself.
Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labour, and my leisure too,
For his civility.
We passed the school where children played,
Their lessons scarcely done;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.
We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.
Since then ’tis centuries; but each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses’ heads
Were toward eternity. -Emily Dickinson
I’m glad I got to meet you on my journey.