By C. Trent Rosecrans
Hall of Fame outfielder Tony Gwynn was scheduled to have surgery on a cancerous tumor in his right cheek, the same place he had a growth removed 18 months ago, ESPN.com reports.
Gwynn's wife, Alicia, told Friend the doctors didn't believe the cancer had spread beyond Gwynn's salivary glad, but they expect to know more after the surgery. Alicia Gwynn said doctors may also perform a nerve graft to preserve his facial functions.
Gwynn, the baseball coach at San Diego State, was diagnosed with cancer in his mouth in August of 2010. He's blamed the cancer on his smokeless tobacco habit. Gwynn used smokeless tobacco for his entire 20-year big-league career and beyond. However, he said he has not used since his 2010 surgery.
In his previous surgery, the doctors left part of a nerve to help control his facial functions, so part of the tumor was left in and the surgery was supplemented with chemotherapy. If the tumor is still on the nerve this time, Alicia Gwynn said her husband instructed doctors to just take it out and then go ahead with the nerve graft to help preserve his facial functions.
"Tony told them to take [the malignant tumor] all out," Alicia Gwynn told ESPN.com. "They said they may need to remove the facial nerve -- they might have to go a lot deeper. But he just told them to take it out. And if they do remove the facial nerve, they'll replace it with a nerve from his shoulder or leg.
"Hopefully, his face will work fine; hopefully he'll be able to blink his eye. They said they will make his face as normal as they can -- and that it might be better than it was."
The best case scenario, Alicia Gwynn said, would have Gwynn back on the field at San Diego State in about a month.
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