Peter Tork, Head & Neck Cancer Nothing to Monkee-Around With

Peter Tork Cancer

Peter Tork, 67, has a rare form of head and neck cancer. This former Monkee underwent surgery on Wednesday in New York. He is doing well and will have radiation treatment when healed from the surgery.

According to Tork’s website, he has adenoid cystic carcinoma of the tongue. The cancer was found early and has not spread.

The tongue is actually divided into two separate anatomical areas. The oral tongue (the part you can "stick out" at somebody) is the front of the tongue and extends backward to a V-shaped group of lumps (specialized taste buds) on the back of the tongue. The base of tongue is behind these.

The oral tongue and the base of the tongue comprise the whole tongue but develop from different embryonic tissue. The tongue is the second most common site of cancers of the head and neck. The first is the skin.

The most common type of cancer of the tongue is called Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Adenoid cystic carcinoma is a rare cancer of the tongue. It is a common malignant cancer of the salivary glands. It accounts for nearly 2% to 4% of head and neck area tumors. In minor salivary glands, adenoid cystic carcinoma usually affects the palate.

The most common symptoms of tongue cancer are a painful area or a non healing ulcer on the tongue. Other symptoms include bleeding, ear pain, difficulty with swallowing and/or speech, pain on swallowing, difficulty opening the mouth, or a presence of a mass in the neck.


Most tongue cancers occur in older patients who have extensive histories of tobacco and/or alcohol use, but can arise in a person under forty years of age and/or have no significant history of tobacco or alcohol use.

When found early, tongue cancer lesions are usually treated by surgery only. For all but the smallest lesions, a lymph node dissection will also be done the side of the neck on which the tumor has arisen. The neck dissection gives additional staging information about the tumor and its aggressiveness. More advanced lesions require radiation therapy and sometimes chemotherapy in addition to the surgery.

Surgical removal of small lesions often cause little functional impairment. Removal of larger portions of the tongue can leave the patient with difficulty with speech and/or swallowing. Aggressive rehabilitation by a speech pathologist can result in excellent results for both speech and swallowing.

The prognosis for patients with tongue cancer is generally good. Early diagnosis and treatment are important.

The Monkees were a rock group in the 1960’s. Their TV show first appeared on NBC in 1966. One of their biggest hits includes chart-topper I'm A Believer. The group toured following the success of their TV show.

Tork hopes to perform a planned gig with his new band, the Shoe Suede Blues, in Manchester, Connecticut later this year.

Official Peter Tork Website
Information About Tongue Cancer
MD Anderson Medical Center
Adenoid cystic carcinoma of the tongue: case report and literature review; Med Oral Patol Oral Cir Bucal. 2008 Aug 1;13(8):E475-8; Soares EC, Carreiro Filho FP, Costa FW, Vieira AC, Alves AP.



This article would be more informative if it dealt with the facts of ACC (Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma) without intermingling facts about other cancers that can leave the reader confused or go away with the wrong impression about ACC. First of all ACC has no known cause, nor is there any known cure. There is no connection to smoking and alcohol consumption as it relates to Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma. This particular cancer very rarely spreads to the lymph nodes. In cases when it does spread to lymph nodes it is usually associated with the more aggressive form of Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma with a solid histology. Under a microscope ACC will appear as tubular, cribriform or solid structure. A person with acc can have one or all three of the histological appearances present in their tumor. Cribriform and tubular being the most common, while the Solid histology is the most aggressive. Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma commonly presents itself with perineural invasion. This cancer will spread by attacking a person’s nerves rather than spreading through the lymph system. When ACC invades the nerves it becomes very unpredictable. The reason for this is because the cancer has a tendency to jump up the nerve it has invaded. You can never be certain that you have a clean margin when surgery and radiation treatment is performed. ACC is an extremely slow growing form of cancer. This cancer acts quite the opposite from most cancers. Usually when you think of someone that has cancer, you would think in terms of 5 years. If a cancer patient gets through the first 5 years they are considered to have dodged the bullet and beat the cancer. Five year survival rates for ACC are very good, close to 90%. Ten and Fifteen year survival rates drop to 65% and as low as 40% respectively. Chemotherapy is quite effective on fast growing cancer cells. Because ACC is very slow growing, chemotherapy has very little benefit for ACC patients, and is usually given as palliative care. ACC can also spread through the blood; however, there are no blood markers to identify the presence of ACC in the blood. The lungs, bones, liver and brain are where this cancer likes to spread (usually in that order). For more information about adenoid cystic carcinoma you can visit and