Susan Chandler’s salivary cancer journey began in 2005 when she went to the doctor for an earache. After several tests, a lump was discovered under her jaw. Six days after surgery to remove the mass, the pathology revealed that she had adenoid cystic carcinoma—a very rare salivary gland cancer.
After a second operation, it was discovered that her cancer had spread. She next had radiation and chemotherapy concurrently, and was deemed “cancer free” for the next 15 months. Two more surgeries followed in 2007 and 2008. Ms. Chandler continued to see her surgeon and medical oncologist in Florida, where she lives. In fall 2009, several nodules were found in her lungs, so she underwent two additional surgeries in 2009 and 2010 to remove them. In spring 2010, Ms. Chandler’s surgeon told her that the next surgery would leave her “horribly disfigured.” As a flight attendant, she knew that this would end the career that she loved.
In fall 2009, several nodules were found in her lungs, so she underwent two additional surgeries in 2009 and 2010 to remove them. In spring 2010, Ms. Chandler’s surgeon told her that the next surgery would leave her “horribly disfigured.” As a flight attendant, she knew that this would end the career that she loved.
She continued surveillance with CT scans and PET scans, and eventually she was selected to participate in a chemotherapy drug trial. Twenty months later, when it was found that the drug hadn’t worked, she was taken off the trial. She was devastated.
Referred from Florida to Mount Sinai
In the summer of 2014, Ms. Chandler and her husband sought a second opinion. Her oncologist in Tampa referred them to The Mount Sinai Hospital to see Marshall Posner, MD, Director of Head and Neck Medical Oncology, who concluded that chemotherapy would not work for her. Dr. Posner introduced them to Eric Genden, MD, Dr. Isidore Friesner Chair of Otolaryngology at Mount Sinai, who is widely recognized for his head and neck cancer and microvascular reconstruction expertise. “He told us that my jaw was being held together by a large tumor in the bone. He said that he wanted to do surgery right away,” Ms. Chandler says.
Dr. Genden describes the case as unusually complicated, but he was able to assure Ms. Chandler that she would not be permanently disfigured.
“Deemed ‘untreatable,’ Susan Chandler presented to Mount Sinai with an advanced salivary gland cancer that had invaded through her mouth and jaw and left this professional flight attendant with unrelenting pain and an open wound,” Dr. Genden says. “Because of her history of prior surgery and radiotherapy, her case was exceptionally complex. Removing the tumor could leave her with a defect of the tongue, jaw, and external skin, with an opening between the mouth and the external skin. Her prior radiotherapy meant that tissue healing was compromised.”
After performing an 11-hour surgery to remove the tumor, surgeons at Mount Sinai used skin and bone from Ms. Chandler’s shoulder blade to reconstruct her tongue, jaw, and cheek. She is now living a normal life, disease free.
Ms. Chandler calls the surgery a miracle. “There will be one more surgery to perfect my jaw, but already my family and friends are amazed. I look like I did before!” she says. “Thank you, Dr. Posner and Dr. Genden, for giving me my life back so I can live to see my family grow!”