Kelly undergoes successful surgery to remove cancer

Jun 7, 2013

Buffalo Bills legend Jim Kelly underwent successful surgery Friday morning to remove cancer from his upper jaw bone.

The Hall of Fame quarterback revealed on Monday that he was diagnosed with squamous cell carinoma. He said it was detected early enough that it had not spread, and called his prognosis "very good." 

Friday morning's surgery was conducted at ECMC.  The hospital says it went "very well" and doctors anticipate a speedy recovery and successful outcome.

Jim Kelly is resting comfortably at ECMC following surgery Friday morning.
Credit File photo

“Today, Mr. Kelly underwent a partial maxillectomy to remove a squamous cell carcinoma of the upper gingival caused be chronic irritation at the gum site.  He underwent reconstruction with a dental obturator.  The surgery went very well.  We are hopeful for and anticipate a speedy recovery and successful outcome,” the hospital said in a statement

Kelly, who is 53, is said to be resting comfortably. The hospital says he will remain at ECMC until he feels ready to go home.

Dr. David Cohan, a head and neck surgeon at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, says now that the surgery is complete, the next step is determining whether any further therapies will be needed.

"Based on how Mr. Kelly's tumor is staged after the pathologists look at it, the determination will be made whether he would benefit from what's called adjuvant therapy, therapy that's given after surgery. That may include radiation, it may include chemo, or occasionally, it will include both," Cohan says.

Cohan, who was not involved in Kelly's care, says surgical recovery depends on the size and location of the defect. In the best case scenario, he says a patient could be home in a couple of days. Also, he says a cancer like Kelly's can come back.

"It is a cancer that can recur. The hope would be to get negative margins, margins where you know that you've gotten all the cancer out. But even if that's achieved, there are people who will recur, either locally or in the lymph nodes of the neck. The crucial thing will be very, very close surveillance for the remainder of Mr. Kelly's life," Cohan says.