Within the span of about six months, a New Jersey man watched a cancerous tumor on his neck grow to larger than his own head.
Milton Wingert, 81, is now recovering from an operation to remove the mass. But in the months leading up to the surgery last week, it had grown so large that doctors worried he would suffocate under the weight of it.
The retired electrician also says he couldn’t leave his home, despite efforts to cover the tumor with a handkerchief.
“I was so self-conscious,” the Journal Square resident tells The Post of the horrifying ordeal. “[People] would make fun of me.”
The cancerous mass appeared on his neck about seven months ago and quickly began to grow. He went to several doctors, but the more the tumor ballooned, the less willing they were to remove it. Many surgeons worried that the procedure could impact his carotid artery or clavicle.
“I kept seeing different doctors and going to different hospitals, and it kept growing and growing and getting bigger and bigger,” he says. “I was getting worried, wondering when I was going to get that operation.”
Earlier this month, Wingert met with Dr. Nazir Khan, a head and neck surgeon at Mount Sinai Hospital, to schedule the procedure. By that time, the tumor had grown to about 23 centimeters, roughly 9 inches — the dimension of a soccer ball.
“It was the largest [tumor] I’ve ever operated on,” Khan says. “It had caused him significant quality of life [issues], so I felt sorry that it had gotten to this point.”
If the tumor had continued to grow, which Khan says it likely would, “it would have essentially compressed his airway” and suffocated Wingert.
During the Nov. 5 surgery, thoracic and vascular surgeons were standing by in case the tumor turned out to be more complicated. “We were prepared for the worst, but hoped for the best,” Khan says.
Luckily, the operation went off without a hitch. Although Wingert will likely still have to undergo additional treatment, such as radiation or chemotherapy, he’s doing better and should be out of the hospital soon — he hopes by his birthday later this month.
“I’m going to celebrate my 82nd birthday,” he says, not taking it for granted this year. “It’s a miracle.”
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