Abu Dhabi woman has fist-sized tumour removed from neck

The growth started out the size of a bean in 2009 and returned after two previous operations to remove it

Aireen is finally rid of the malignant tumour on her neck. Photo: SSMC
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A woman has had her neck reconstructed after medics removed a life-threatening lump from behind her ear.

The mass, as large as a fist, was taken out and skin from the patient's arms and thighs was grafted on to her neck and face.

Aireen, 42, from the Philippines, noticed a lump the size of a bean behind her ear 13 years ago. It continued to grow and in 2016 doctors diagnosed it as a tumour and surgically removed it.

The tumour returned twice, resulting in further operations in 2018 and 2020.

Last year, Aireen visited Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City for what she hopes was the final operation to remove the tumour.

“The patient had presented with a parotid tumour, which is an abnormal growth of cells that form in the parotid glands, the largest of the three major salivary glands,” said Dr John Devine, a maxillofacial, head and neck surgery consultant at SSMC.

“The patient came to us in 2021. We found that the tumour had become quite advanced, the size of a fist, and was ulcerating her skin.”

Dr John Devine and Aireen after the tumour was removed. Photo: SSMC

Together with a team of doctors, Dr Devine conducted a CT scan and biopsy, which confirmed the malignant tumour and its potential to spread to other areas of the body.

“The surgery itself carried several risks for the team to factor in and control, including facial paralysis being a key risk. We also had to design the surgery in a way that we were able to do reconstruction,” he said.

“We performed the procedure using a facial NIM alarm system to detect the nerves and remove the tumour, along with a large part of the facial skin. We then took a segment of her upper arm, an artery, and a vein to reconstruct the area. We were pleased to have accomplished the removal and reconstruction within the same surgery,” said Dr Devine.

Following the operation, Aireen needed extensive physiotherapy to recover full use of her face, neck and shoulder muscles.

“Rehabilitation played a pivotal role in the patient’s recovery, as we focused on the treatment plan to restore the patient’s range of motion and activate the muscle strength of the neck and right shoulder,” said Amira El-Sheshtawi, senior physiotherapist at SSMC.

“We also paid attention to the nerves that control the movements of the mouth and facial muscles and focused on deep breathing exercises and stimulating the lungs and respiratory system to avoid complications and improve the quality of her life after surgery.”

Aireen said she was relieved that the surgery went well.

“[I'm glad] that I was finally able to get the help I needed after living with the tumour for such a long time,” she said.

“I’m so happy with the results and I’m very grateful to Dr Devine because he really went the extra mile, and the nursing staff were very caring and checking up on me daily.”

Last month, an elderly woman regained her love of life after doctors in Abu Dhabi removed a tumour weighing more than 3 kilograms from her left breast.

The Yemeni mother, who lives in the UAE capital, was in unbearable pain, caused by an enormous growth she likened to a newborn baby being “constantly attached to you”.

She had the tumour removed in 2018, but in a case similar to Aireen's, it returned and grew to its large state four months later.

It was finally removed in January at Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City in partnership with Mayo Clinic.

Updated: May 31, 2022, 5:55 PM