Father, husband, grandfather, and business executive Tony Spadora found a tiny mass, less than a quarter inch, inside his left nostril. At first the bump seemed unremarkable, but Spadora and his family would discover how serious it really was.
A week after the bump was excised, Spadora was referred to the Rutgers Health's Cancer Institute of New Jersey for Merkel cell carcinoma, a rare and aggressive skin cancer. That’s where he met Dr. Kianoush Sheykholeslami. “Dr. Shey,” as he is affectionately known, is one of the few specialists in the world who is board-certified in otolaryngology/head and neck surgery as well as facial plastics and reconstructive surgery.
“I call it one-stop shopping,” Sheykholeslami jokes, describing the surgical experience at the Cancer Institute for patients with any kind of head or neck pathology. “In the past, patients would leave their first surgery with a big bandage for at least two to three weeks until they could get back in for reconstruction. I am equally good in all these specialties.”
The institute’s team of multidisciplinary oncologists and reconstructive surgeons includes neuro-oncologists, medical and radiation oncologists, and rehabilitation specialists for speaking, hearing, swallowing, or eating.
Spadora recalls, “I was given three alternatives: Do nothing. Go immediately to radiation and chemotherapy. Or opt for surgery to remove the tissue that would be extensive. [I] just wanted to get this thing out.” Sheykholeslami explained, “Merkel cell carcinoma is not supposed to be [inside the nose] but once it happens, it can spread across your body. This is frightening for both patients and pathologists.”
In a four-and-a-half-hour procedure, Sheykholeslami cleared the original area of the tumor by cutting away any remaining cancer and then reconstructed the nose. At his follow-up appointment, Spadora was told that there was no need for radiation or chemotherapy. He was cured.
“I’ll continue to get regular scans for a couple of years and there will always be a little bit of doubt in the back of my mind whispering, ‘Is this thing going to come back?’” Spadora admits, “but I trust these doctors.”