MLB Hall-of-famer Survives Parotid Gland Cancer, Twice

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Dr. Babak Larian, Beverly Hills parotid expert, talks parotid tumors and recent surgical advancements

Due to recent surgical advancements and the expertise of a select number of surgeons, surgical can be performed without complications.

Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, also known as Mr. Padre because of his 20 seasons with the San Diego Padres, is a two-time cancer survivor who recently overcame 14 hours of surgery to remove a malignant parotid gland tumor from inside his right cheek.

“Most salivary gland tumors are benign (non-cancerous), and the parotid gland is by far the most common site for these tumors. Considering that 80% of parotid tumors are benign and not malignant (cancerous), Mr. Gwynn was really unlucky,” says Beverly Hills parotid tumor expert, Babak Larian, MD, FACS.

The baseball legend, who is a true survivor, had cancer hit not once, but twice to his parotid gland. The tumor was wrapped around a nerve that controls movement on that side of the face. The first time around, doctors hesitated to take the nerve because it could lead to permanent paralysis.

“The parotid gland is located in front of the ear, and goes down to the angle of the jaw. The facial nerve, which is the main nerve that moves the face, passes through the parotid gland. Because of its location, there is always a risk of facial paralysis when surgically treating the condition, explaining why the doctors hesitated to take the nerve. However, due to recent surgical advancements and the expertise of a select number of surgeons, surgical can be performed without complications,”says Dr. Larian.

In this case, Gwynn went through months of aggresive radiation and chemotherapy, only to see the treatment fail. That was when doctors decided to completely remove the growth. The procedure took 14 hours, and involved the transplantation of another nerve from Gwynn's right shoulder.

“The surgical procedure used to remove a parotid gland is extremely complex, explaining why the doctor hesitated the first time around. It requires constant monitoring of the facial nerve function, and every possible safety measure and precaution must be taken before, during, and after surgery. That is why an experienced surgeon who uses the most advanced surgical tools should be consulted for this type of surgery,” says Dr. Larian.

Today, months after the lengthy surgery and intense rehab, the MLB legend is almost back to full swing, according to

Dr.Babak Larian, the Chairman and the Director of the CENTER for Advanced Head & Neck Surgery in Los Angeles, is a highly experienced and reputable board-certified surgeon, specializing in ear, nose and throat surgery. Dr. Larian is nationally renowned for his expertise in minimally invasive surgery techniques in the treatment of sinus, thyroid, parathyroid, salivary glands and throat disorders. Visit for more information.

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