The Monkees’ Peter Tork Had Rare Tongue Cancer

By Sara Bondell - February 22, 2019

Peter Tork, the bassist for The Monkees, passed away earlier this week.

“It is with beyond-heavy and broken hearts that we share the devastating news that our friend, mentor, teacher and amazing soul, Peter Tork, has passed form his world,” a social media post read. “One of his deepest joys was to be out in front of you, playing his music and seeing you enjoy what he had to share.”

The cause of Tork’s death was not specified, but he had been diagnosed with a rare form of tongue cancer in 2009. Adenoid cystic carcinoma is an aggressive type of cancer that most commonly develops in the salivary glands. There are only about 1,200 cases per year in the United States.

“Surgery is the treatment of choice if possible,” said Moffitt head and neck surgeon Dr. Trad Wadsworth. “Radiation therapy is usually used after surgery or instead of surgery if initially a tumor is inoperable.” He says there are also ongoing clinical trials to determine the potential benefits of other treatments, like immunotherapy drugs.

The exact cause of adenoid cystic carcinoma is unknown. Symptoms of the disease could include a lump on the palate, under the tongue or in the mouth, numbness, difficulty swallowing and hoarseness. Wadsworth says any salivary gland tumor should be analyzed by specialized surgeons and pathologists for proper diagnosis and treatment options.

Tork played bass and keyboard for the popular band known for hits like “Daydream Believer” and “I’m a Believer.” He and bandmates Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith rose to fame on their comedy television show, which ran from 1966 to 1968.

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