Former Bills QB Kelly battling cancer of the jaw

Posted at: 06/03/2013 9:07 AM
Updated at: 06/03/2013 8:22 PM
By: Robin De Wind

Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly is facing a bigger challenge than he ever did on the football field. The great Buffalo Bills player has been diagnosed with cancer in his upper jaw bone. He says that tests show it is isolated in his jaw bone and has not spread.

Jim Kelly says he will face his next challenge the way he has faced other challenges in his life, head on.

Jim Kelly went public Monday that he's been diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, the most common form of head and neck cancer.

Kelly was told of the diagnosis two weeks ago and that the prognosis was very good. The cancer is isolated to the jaw and has not spread to other parts of his body. Kelly made the announcement at his annual celebrity golf tournament in Batavia where he raises money for his "Kelly for Kids" charitable foundation.

Dr. Paul van der Sloot is a head and neck surgeon at the Wilmot Cancer Center. He says surgery is the best treatment option, but Kelly may require some plastic surgery, adding the public can benefit when a high profile person shares their diagnosis. Kelly has already lost some front teeth and says it was nagging pain that alerted his dentist that something was wrong.

Dr. van der Sloot says a risk factor can be smoking and alcohol. He tells people to be vigilant and to not assume it's something small, especially if it's persistent.

Because the cancer is in the bone, surgery is the only option. Kelly has surgery at Erie County Medical Center on Friday. It's unclear if he will need follow up chemotherapy and radiation.

To learn more about the forms of head and neck cancer, click here.